(JOURNALISM) using flattery to gain access to sources. The phrase is usually used in the context of White House or Congressional press corps, who use fulsome praise of high-ranking officials whose favor they need. Usually, officials like to be publicly represented as magnificent, selfless, tireless public servants; in exchange for such blurbs, they may invite specific reporters to exclusive events, thereby boosting the reporter's status.
It's actually been a feature of the business press for ages.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, business reporters have tended to write dismissively of bank executives. Six years ago they were likely to have written a beat sweetener about some CEO who was now shithead-of-the week.