In the old Knight-Ridder ethics code, there was something about sources taking you to lunch: It was “assumed” that your level of integrity was such that is wasn’t for sale “for the price of lunch.” Hah! Reporters love free food, and of course the flattery that goes along with it can certainly smooth things along; they’re human beings, after all:
A former health insurance insider turned whistleblower says that he was not only surprised at how “easy” it was to manipulate members of the news media over the years, but also reveals that he routinely “wined and dined” reporters from major news outlets – including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal – in return for favorable coverage.
In his new book Deadly Spin, Wendell Potter describes how his chief function as a senior public relations officer at two of the largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States – Humana and Cigna – was to “perpetuate myths that had no other purpose but to sustain those companies’ extraordinary high profitability.”
But in an extended interview with Raw Story last week, Potter went further, revealing that he lunched with reporters at major media outlets for years – including journalists at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal – as well as those from local and regional media, in most cases picking up the tab, which he says directly resulted in positive coverage of the companies he represented.
In an email to Raw Story Sunday night, New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha responded, “The claims are unsubstantiated and absurd since no names of reporters, examples of stories or other pertinent facts are provided to support these claims.”
Wall Street Journal spokeswoman Ashley Huston declined comment.