A skin care company that claims to have a cure for acne, psoriasis, folliculitis and other disorders is contacting Virginia media outlets and offering to pay them $100 for each person who sees the company's press release and signs up to get treatment. The company asks editors to "consider running our press release as a win-win project." The only problem? Taking kickbacks violates the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which dictates that journalists should "refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment ..." and "be wary of sources offering information for favors or money." One editor who noted the corrupting significance of the company's bird-dogging offer to media outlets forwarded the release to the Poynter Institute, a school whose mission is to "ensure that Americans have access to excellent journalism" and to help Americans understand how to tell which journalism is credible. The Institute posted a blog alerting the public to the press release.
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