Being Broke Is Changing Ethics In Journalism

Mason Pelt
3 min readMay 31, 2023

Jonathan Snowden wrote an incredibly thoughtful article about ethics in MMA media, and journalism more broadly. What Snowden points out is just how arbitrary the lines of ethics often are in reporting. I have another point.

Originally published at https://www.masonpelt.com on May 31, 2023.

The ethical lines in reporting are changing, because they cannot be sustained. Look, I’m an ad agency demon who flits into the press core sometimes, normally with a disclaimer that most of my income is from an ad agency and not writing. But I know as much about the media industry as most working reporters.

Most members of the press are just a few steps down the ad dollar hall from me. Advertisers who pay for ads hire firms like mine to manage that spend. Those firms send money to ad tech companies who take a cut, and in turn share a cut of that money with publishers, who dole out fees to reporters. It’s a pyramid scheme of sorts.

Snowden asks what’s the difference between receiving thousands of dollars of free tickets to cover events (ethically fine) and receiving free hotel rooms (ethically compromised)?

The answer is obfuscation. It’s morally a-okay to have a publication’s accounting department pay for hotel rooms with ad dollars from the event the journalists are covering, but…

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Mason Pelt

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