Why shouldn’t reporters have sex with the people they cover?

The answer, everybody will tell you, is orgasmically obvious: It’s the same reason reporters shouldn’t partner in a business with their sources or go vacationing with them! Such mixing contaminates the end product with the unforgivable taint of compromise and conflict of interest, hence the taboo. Also, sleeping with a source can be interpreted as payment for information—another no-no in American journalistic circles. A third worry: Any normalization of sex-for-news-tips transactions would increase the already onerous demands and expectations that some sources force on reporters—mostly female reporters—to put out for them.

So on this we all agree: Journalists shouldn’t sleep with their sources, something most in-house ethics manuals endorse. If you score with somebody you cover or with a source, you’re supposed to tell your boss and recuse yourself from the beat. New York Times guidelines instruct the paper’s journalists to maintain social distance from sources and subjects to “avoid creating an appearance of coziness,” explicitly ruling out golfing regularly with subjects and sources or playing cards with them. As for “romantic involvement” (Times speak for bouncy-bouncy) with a news source, Times reporters are supposed to alert their superiors of any such entanglement, leaving it to them to decide whether a conflict exists and how to remedy it, including transfers to other beats.