beat sweetener
n. A flattering, non-critical profile of a public figure written by a reporter whose regular beat includes coverage of that person.
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On the other hand, friendship is the real corrupting influence on journalism, and these pressures will never be mentioned. A reporter will never disclose the pervasive influence his friends and dinner companions have on the way he slants a story. And you will never read this: "(Full disclosure: This is a beat-sweetener. I am only writing this absurdly positive profile of this blowhard so he will return my calls in the future.)"
—David Brooks, “Full disclosure: I'm great,” The Globe and Mail (Canada), August 08, 1998
So in the January 24 New Yorker, Blumenthal concocted a beat sweetener so sugary it threatened to give the magazine's readers diabetes. In his effort to become Clinton's best friend in the press, Blumenthal pulled out all the stops. He made comparisons between the president and Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, and Woodrow Wilson.
—Martin Morse Wooster, “Pilgrim’s regress,” Reason, May 01, 1994
1988 (earliest)
Especially useful sources, like Robert Strauss, are rewarded with occasional "beat sweeteners." The New York Times, particularly on its "Washington Talk" page, has made a minor specialty of such puffy stories. The New York Times Magazine profiles by (otherwise capable) beat reporters are often so uncritical as to be practically useless. Yet the magazine has long been reluctant to assign such profiles to nonbeat reporters, who would possess the advantage of not having to worry that criticism would restrict their access.

Some beat sweeteners are written partly out of hope for future morsels from an important source.
—Jonathan Alter, “Mutually Assured Seduction,” Newsweek, May 23, 1988
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