Is this ethical journalism?

The Gabby Cabby in his New York cab.

Is this ethical journalism?

It’s in our nature to want to communicate. Most of us anyway. Whether or not we’re any good at it. All the books, press articles, TV shows,radio broadcasts, podcasts, tweets, facebook updates and blog posts that we churn out are there to be seen or read or heard.

But how do you get people to watch or listen? How do you gain access to the mainstream media to get your idea or story across?

Here’s a guy who’s offering what looks like a bribe to radio station presenters and producers to book him for interviews. I say it looks like a bribe. It may not be. You decide.

Here’s part of his spiel:

hey broadcaster….

win two round trip tickets to new york city from anyplace in the world…

i have been talking to folks at radio stations for 25 years and i have decided i want one of you radio people to come to new york city as my guest.  it can be either the on air person or the producer who books the segment. 

effective immediately, here is the deal:  each time i am telephoned for an on air report during 2011 an index card with the name of the broadcaster (who talks to me on air) and an index card with the name of the producer (who actually booked the segment) will be placed in a sealed box. in the first week of january 2012 one index card will be drawn from the box and that person will be the winner.
the prize is two round trip tickets to new york city from any place in the world and a full day tour (7 hours) with me.  any additional charges like airport departures, baggage, or anything else the airline dreams up is your responsibility.  i will just supply the two tickets.

He’s Peter Franklin, aka the Gabby Cabby. I know from personal experience that when interviewed, he gives good value in his entertaining takes on life in New York City to foreign media outlets. And a pair of free tickets to NYC is certainly appealing.

But could such an overt financial incentive backfire? Might a journalist or producer bridle at such a clear ‘come on’? Might they hesitate to put editorial values second to what could be in it for them?

What if you won? Would the prize suddenly become a mark of shame? Would you have to keep your free trip a secret? Or could this be the way of the future – payola for access?

It’ll be interesting to see what response there is from media producers to the Gabby Cabby’s offer.

But anyway, is there really any need for him to sweeten the deal for a media producer when the offering is already so strong? After all, as Humbert Wolfe said:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist

(thank God!) the British journalist.

But, seeing what the man will do

unbribed, there’s no occasion t0.

(Feel free to replace “the British” with the words “any kind of”. And yeah, yeah, I’m not saying they’re all bad. Some are admirable.)



Filed under media

13 responses to “Is this ethical journalism?

  1. These people did see this as bribes. It is a business “arrangement” Just like Miami politicians in charge of the public trust. They think they are entitled to “gifts” and think of it as merely rubbing elbows.

  2. Stef Notarangelo

    I’ve booked him a few times before at the radio station I used to work at. He is certainly a larger-than-life character – and indeed a great listen – but this tactic merely smacks of shameless bribery. And I’m positive it won’t work on any journalist who believes in editorial integrity.

    Any chance you have his number?

  3. Sorry I saw the title to this post and burst out laughing “ethical journalism”, now that’s an oxymoron if ever I saw one. I’m not familiar with him and I guess if it’s just chat radio there’s no harm. Although there is the risk of ‘cash for comment’ which is something we don’t do here. Basically that’s endorsing something as if it is an ‘editorial comment’ when in fact you’re being paid such as recommending a product or service in an editorial way. In which case, yeh, unethical unless declared to the audience. I don’t see much of a problem as long as the audience are aware that it’s a paid guest.

    • blackwatertown

      Didn’t you have that cash for comment scandal with radio presenters a while back? Banks quietly paying presenters so they would give favourable comments about those companies, while purporting to be the voice of the common people…

  4. To play devil’s advocate for a minute it’s not the interviewee who should be blamed for trying to market himself. In fact, the party that would be at fault would be the reporter or producer that would select this guy for an interview in hopes of winning this trip. Or worse would be IF he or she selected for the trip were to accept the bribe. I am not saying this isn’t a bribe, or that it’s ethically or morally correct, but I don’t blame the guy for promoting himself.

    • blackwatertown

      I think the likes of Transparency International, when discussing corporations bribing developing company administrators, would blame both the bribe acceptor and the briber.
      But I take your point – is it just imaginative self-promotion?
      Of course any news journalist falling for it – or seen to fall for it… That could be hard to explain away.

  5. putting A Few Daily Mail journalists on a plane has a certain appeal………..

  6. blackwatertown

    Comment from samhenry that went astray – January 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

    The cabbie has put something out there and revealed his motives. First act of the devil – he is setting up a lottery.

    Act 2, he has put the calendar out there but with contractual type addenda. If you do this, then you can have that he is saying. In doing this, the cabbie has further clarified what the program really is.

    Clearly, anyone who is currently a journalist who accepts those tickets and the conditions for attaining them is contracting with the journalism Antichrist. This is a violation of journalism’s code of ethics.

    Even in corporate level arrangements at newspapers, the ones that offer people money for stories are not highly regarded. This in turnoften contributes to the seller embellishing the “facts” he/she is selling to ensure the paper gets a superior product!

    I just say to my friends. Come to my blog. There are cookies.

  7. Free Tickets:
    “Come to my cab … listen to my gab”
    The word free will bring many to the show.

  8. ok folks, don’t get your knickers in a twist. of course it is a bribe to get more broadcasters to call me. out of my existing email list of about 700 broadcasters around the world, i wanted to see who could be bribed and who could not. can you imagine my surprise to find out that most are hoping to win and come visit me in nyc? i have turned their names over to their local police. by the way, i do not get paid to do the broadcasts and my truetales are fluff, what then is my motive? oh wait a minute. there is a broadcaster who once sent me a tee shirt.

  9. Yani

    I discovered your blog on google and have checked out a few of your posts. Keep up the superb output. Looking forward to more.

  10. visalus

    Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.

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