It has been years since I had an official beat, but even the Hillaryland pieces I wrote last year would not have happened if I hadn't gotten to know a few Hillarylanders through an earlier profile of Patti Solis Doyle that--while neither assigned nor approached as a beat-sweetener--wound up being softer than either I or my long-suffering editors would have liked. Getting to know people before you come charging in poking around on a story likely to piss them off has undeniable up sides.
As for beat reporters who do engage in intentional source greasing, where is the scandal? It's not like they do it to get invited to White House cocktail parties. They do it to get to know the people in a position to help them ferret out the inside bits of muck and grime. Does it work? Damn straight. (I'm thinking in particular of one WaPo reporter my husband used to edit who was a freaking master at the process.) Are we really so delicate and high-minded that we feel that the reading public is poorly served because a reporter does a getting-to-know-you profile of, say, some random Foggy Bottom official who then knows the reporter's name well enough to feel obligated to return his subsequent calls? If so, can someone please explain to me when journalism got so prissy?