An open secret in the media industry is that “access journalism” and “beat reporting” are more or less one in the same. Trading at least mildly positive coverage for access to tips and juicy information is hardly a rare event. It’s the way most news reporting gets done.
There are lines you’re not supposed to cross. There should be no explicit quid-pro-quo defined in the trade; you, as the reporter, should never allow the source to have editorial control over the story, or even allow them to read the it ahead of publication; and you should, of course, never sleep with your source — going golfing, getting drinks, or otherwise hanging out socially without romance all fall more into a gray area. Business relationships though are a definite “no.”
However, incidents of all of these types surface with some regularity. Perhaps like with cockroaches, when you see one in the open, there are countless others that remain concealed.
And why should that be surprising, really?