The idea of paying for positive coverage at a scholarly conference is 0% original.
The issue of paying professors to attend the 4C’s meeting is particularly sensitive because of the make-up of the association. Many of the people most knowledgeable about teaching composition are adjunct professors or full timers who are off the tenure track and who frequently don’t have the same access as tenured professors to travel budgets and research support. As a result, there is arguably more discussion within the 4C’s meeting than at some others about issues related to who can afford to attend and present. The conference has a fund to help those without travel budgets attend the meeting — but applications for such support are not based on whether or not someone favors using Turnitin.com.
Kent Williamson, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, of which the 4C’s is part, said he had never before heard of a company offering to pay people whose papers on selected topics are accepted for the annual meeting. He stressed that Turnitin.com did not ask permission to involve itself with the conference in this way and that the payments it makes are “not in any way a 4C’s initiative.”
I do use Turnitin.com. I can only think of one time when the service identified problems with a paper submitted by a student who wasn’t already showing serious signs of trouble in other areas (such as excessive absences or not turning in the pre-writing). I’ve even had a false positive where a student who had posted her pre-writing on her blog was surprised to find Turnitin.com calling the resulting paper “unoriginal” when it found her blog and compared its contents against the submitted work. Of course I explained to the student I would never even think of taking action on a Turnitin.com report without first investigating thoroughly, but that student was still distressed.