Is there a good term to describe the symbiotic relationships that we see so often between media (broadly defined) and the subjects they're covering? I'm thinking of how TMZ tends to give Bieber favorable coverage and Bieber gives TMZ exclusives and more access in exchange. I'm also thinking of how a member of the elite might pay an author (through access or simply money) to write a favorable biography about him or her. My best attempt would be media-subject entanglement, or something to that effect, but I'm hoping maybe there's a preestablished term for it out of the journalist or communications literature.

An example sentence: TMZ's relationship with Justin Bieber is a good example of media-subject entanglement.

PS: I don't actually care about TMZ and Bieber. It just came to mind since I read a great New Yorker article on TMZ recently that covered it.

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    In Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut defines a karass as A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident. In that neither TMZ nor Mr. Bieber have any cosmic significance, and all their interactions are superficial, their relationship would seem to be an anti-karass. – bib Feb 25 '16 at 17:12
  • Maybe you could consider using "self-censoring" (to kind of cover the "media-specific" notion) with any of the good answers/comments that cover the "mutually rewarding" notion (or even with your "entanglement"). – Papa Poule Feb 25 '16 at 18:09
  • FYI: I'm going to leave this question open for a short time to see if anybody has an answer more specific to the media. After a few days, if nothing further comes in, I'll accept FumbleFingers' excellent general answer, though Hellion's is also a good general answer that would be preferable in some circumstances. – Shane Feb 25 '16 at 22:30

I'd say they've formed...

a mutual admiration society (humorous)
a situation in which two people express a lot of admiration for each other
'You haven't aged at all.'
'Neither have you and look how slim you are!'
'Hey, you two, why don't you form a mutual admiration society!'

In the context of, say, politicians and the media, it's often said that they're in a (figurative)...

incestuous relationship
being so close or intimate as to prevent proper functioning
an incestuous relationship between organized crime and government.

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  • But again, this is not media+X-specific. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '16 at 17:35
  • It also misses the asymmetry of the relationship -- the benefits provided by one side are not the same as those provided by the other in the media example, whereas they clearly are here. That said, I love this. If I ever write creatively, I'd like to include a mutual admiration society and @bib's anti-karass. – Shane Feb 25 '16 at 17:37
  • @Shane: I'd steer clear of anything based on karass, since almost nobody will know what it means (as this chart shows, within a couple of decades it pretty much "sank without trace"). – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 17:43
  • Incestuous relationship between the media and their subjects does sound pretty good. Obviously it's fairly loaded with judgment, but in many cases in which one refers to these relationships, it is to criticize them. – Shane Feb 25 '16 at 17:46
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    @Shane: I suppose you could say they have a mutually beneficial arrangement / relationship, which is a much less loaded term. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 17:52

I would refer to it as a quid pro quo arrangement:

Quid pro quo ("something for something" or "this for that" in Latin) means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" (...) source: wikipedia

For the media, a quid pro quo relationship with someone is considered to be a bad thing, negatively impacting their ability to be objective and impartial reporters of news and information.

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  • This is a good answer in that it captures the symbiotic relationship. On the other hand, it is more general than what I was after. It certainly works in the example sentence, but it conveys a different meaning; I suppose I could say media-subject quid pro quo or quid pro quo between media and subject, but it would be better (for me) if there was already a term that focused specifically on that instance. – Shane Feb 25 '16 at 17:29
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    @Shane It's funny, I was considering putting in a sentence to the effect that "this isn't really media-specific, but I think it gets to the essence of the relationship". :-) – Hellion Feb 25 '16 at 17:31
  • 'Croneyism' and 'a you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours' are also too general to be given as answers. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '16 at 17:33
  • @Shane Another potential word that's not media-specific would be "favoritism" (or "playing favorites"), perhaps even "mutual favoritism". – Hellion Feb 25 '16 at 17:37

Trophobiosis comes pretty close.

the exchange of nourishment between organisms in a symbiotic relationship


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  • Have you ever seen this word used outside of biology? The other answers capture the symbiosis but are general, i.e., not particularly specific to the symbiosis in my question. Your answer also captures symbiosis, but appears specific to the wrong instance of symbiosis. But, insofar as I've just learned a new word, I appreciate the answer regardless. :) – Shane Feb 25 '16 at 22:33

You can use incestuous in this context.

incestuous -

excessively or improperly intimate or exclusive

The metaphor here is that the relationship is illicit. It's not aboveboard. It's not unimpeachable. It's incestuous.

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You could consider using one hand washes the other (and both wash the face) which means:

All parties involved will benefit from helping each other and/or working together toward the same goal.

'Look, if you feature our company's logo during your campaign, we get a major boost in advertising visibility, and you get a bump in your campaign funding—one hand washes the other!'

[Farlex Dictionary of Idioms]

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Naah—it's just how show business works.

Celebrities sell tickets, products and commercial time because people enjoy seeing and hearing them. That's why the media tries to cover them: Pieces that feature them are easy sells, no matter what they actually describe. (How "newsworthy" would it be if you or I got married, had a baby, or tried a new fashion style?)

I don't think there's any special word or phrase to describe this. It's an unconscious aspect of human nature that's been around since tribal days: Identify and somehow align yourself with the most physically capable and attractive people, and you'll naturally be in the largest group with the best chance of survival. It's biology.

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