Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ABC-TV 'bans' checkbook journalism

ABC News has dropped the network's practice of paying subjects of news stories for exclusive interviews, media critic Howard Kurtz recently reported.

It's also addressed in the current issue of Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists. There, columnist Mike Farrell reminds readers of ABC News having paid more than $10,000 to buy pictures tied to disgraced Congressman Anthony Wiener's "smartphone stupidity" and $200,000 to exonerated murder defendant Casey Anthony for family photos and videos.

ABC also paid $10,000 to a woman who said she'd injected Botox into her 8-year-old daughter.

Farrell reports perspectives from insiders and experts, too.

"What happens to journalism when sources agree to interviews only when they are paid?" he asks. "Media ethicist John Michael Kittross has argued that 'treating news as a commodity eventually will destroy journalism as a public benefit'.”

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider, meanwhile, told Kurtz that ABC News isn't too worried about stopping the pay-off practice.

"We can book just about anyone based on the strength of our journalism, the excellence of our anchors, correspondent and producers, and the size of our audience," Schneider said.

Elsewhere, SPJ president Hagit Limor said, “When you pay for a story, you’re making a contract with the person who supplies it, and that means you’re no longer acting independently."