Making Money from Scoops

Here is an ethical question.

Can a news source make money from its scoops – beyond the obvious – and will I keep reading the source if they continue to scoop?

The question is raised by Felix Salmon, the finance blogger on Reuters – somewhat facetiously I thought…until I thought about it and read the comments posted around his own posting.

Read on:

Bottom line – companies pay for access to information. In today’s world they pay for access to ever more relevant and ever more instant sources. If I hired a research company to unearth that same information few would argue that I don’t have the right to benefit from it. But a news source? A storied institution like the New York Times? Don’t they have a compact with the public? Don’t all credible news institutions have that same sense of accountability?

Yet already I can pay the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and others to get digital access to their news and thus get it faster and before the print edition is even composed. And, if I go back in time – isn’t buying a daily subscription the same thing? I get it early in the morning – read it with my coffee and muffin and get a jump on the guy who picks it up on the way in. In fact I remember stories of people who would wait outside the printing plants to get the first copy of a given newspaper in the old days.

So – it would seem, at first glance, that in our digital world there is no additional ethical or moral issue – like most things it’s just an evolution and adaptation of understood and accepted behavior.

Or is it? HMMMMMMM….

Read the posts and tell me what you think.

My going in view was much the same as one of the contributors – a trusted news source has to be held to a different standard than a scandal rag – and I might be tempted to add that in a world where credibility, relevance and trust are becoming blurred subjects, I might feel even more strongly about that point and hope that they hew to a more rigorous interpretation of their charter.

In fact I might argue that if they fall prey to the temptation it actually lowers their future competitive advantage.

Last point – notice all the anonymity in the postings – my position on that has never changed – unless you are in a country where you fear for your life the opportunity to misuse hiding behind a curtain is too tempting for too many…and adds to the danger of having no credible sources left for benchmarking information and, yes, even behavior.


“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
Samuel Johnson

I think this about sums it up. Interestingly, many weighed in on this, from the Greek and Roman philosophers to Benjamin Franklin to many of today’s most famous pundits.

Not a problem created by our age but one still very relevant and very much on people’s minds.

What do you think?

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