Will a TV network be willing to pay Casey Anthony to get an exclusive interview?
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Don't look for her interview on ABC. The Anthony case has prompted ABC News to outlaw paying people money to land exclusive stories. This decision comes after court records in the Anthony trial exposed that the network had once paid her $200,000 for photos.
For years, there has been much speculation that network news divisions were pulling out the checkbook to beat the competition on eyeball-grabbing stories. Those accusations were regularly met with denials that the practice even existed.
Networks would occasionally say they'd paid "licensing fees" for rights to photos, videos or other materials. But money for anything else? Never.
That same competitive drive has now prompted NBC News to "congratulate" ABC for changing its policy. ABC fired back by accusing NBC of hypocrisy.
For the vast majority of people who work in news media, checkbook journalism has never been part of our career. We've knocked on doors and worked the phones to land our exclusives.
But at the network TV level, the stakes are much higher and the standards are cloudier. Money has become just another tool to get the story.
An exclusive one-on-one interview could command an audience in the millions, and land millions in advertising income. A six-figure check becomes pocket change to cement the deal -- an investment in a huge payoff.
What about the standards of journalism? A network could argue that its nightly hard news broadcast has rules that don't apply to the morning chatfest or its prime time newsmagazine. Some shows may report to the news division, while others fall under the entertainment category.
Most journalists take issue with this "ends justifying the means" way of thinking. But reporters aren't usually faced with the business pressures of running a news organization.
Should a network pick up the airline and hotel tabs to get a person to New York for a live news interview? If you have no problem with that, then you find how easy it can be to slide down the slope into paying people to tell their stories.
The issue then moves beyond payment, into disclosure -- like those TV commercials that say in the fine print that someone has been paid for a product endorsement. Viewers deserve to know whether money was involved.
That's because if people are paid to be interviewed, maybe they've juiced up their story to command the paycheck. Money can taint what's coming out of their mouths.
For Anthony, she has one offer apparently on the table. Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt says she could make more than $500,000 by appearing nude in his magazine. But for now at least, it appears no TV network is interested in coughing up the cash to get her to talk.
What do you think -- Can money be used ethically to get exclusive news stories?