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Is There Room in Journalism for Reporters Who Make Paid Product Endorsements?

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You don’t ordinarily think of a local news reporter having endorsement deals, but Sara Hopkins, a reporter at WWAY in Wilmington, NC, reportedly does.

As Deborah Potter writes at NewsLab, Hopkins has leveraged her social media cred–a combined 350,000 followers across Twitter, Vine and Instagram–into a significant enhancement to her starter-market salary. Old Navy paid her $2,000 for a Vine ad and a Tweet; she’s also been a paid spokesperson for Coca-Cola.

And no, her boss at WWAY is neither unaware or unhappy:

Hopkins doesn’t hide the fact that she’s a journalist on her social media profiles and none of her activities come as a surprise to WWAY news director Scott Pickey. “[Sara] was active on social media before we hired her,” Pickey told me. “She has a huge following that has nothing to do with her job.”

While he understands that allowing a reporter to flog products could raise eyebrows, Pickey says Hopkins does the ads on her own time. And he says her social media experience has been a net plus for the station because of what she’s been able to teach the rest of the staff.

Here’s a Vine pushing Coca-Cola:

What do you think? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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