ABC, NBC and the shameful business of news operations buying interviews

Megan Broussard and former Congressman Anthony Weiner

Last Sunday, I wrote about the way in which British tabloid values had already taken root in American media and corroded the soul of our press.

I was challenging the conventional wisdom here that our journalistic standards are somehow vastly superior to those of the British. I think too many analysts are using the News of the World scandal to support that false belief.


I am hoping we can use the discussion to help us pull back from the values Rupert Murdoch had helped import. My evidence for corrosion included the way ABC News, NBC News and other TV operations have been paying for interviews and getting more and more blantant about it -- barely even using the wink-wink "licensing fee for pictures" lie to disguise the practice.

On Monday, ABC News announced it was giving up the practice altogether. Good for ABC News.

But as big an announcement as it was, the news sort of got buried under all the debt crisis coverage. Mea culpa from me.

But Adweek was on the case. And NBC News, which has long been shameslessly buying interviews and access on the "Today" show, took note of the announcement as well.

Adweek reported this exchange Monday afternoon between NBC and ABC News. If you missed it, please check it out:

As ABC News moves away from checkbook journalism, its competitors are starting to gloat—and distance themselves from similar practices. "We were happy to hear about this change in ABC News policy," a spokesperson for NBC News told Adweek. "We agree that their recent activity has been bad for journalism and the news industry. And we welcome them back to the practices that we work hard to uphold."

An ABC News insider, flabbergasted by the NBC comment, fired back saying, "NBC News lies about its practices, does not disclose the habitual payments it makes for interviews, and then has the gall to get up on a high horse. Someone ought to remind NBC News that the higher they get up on that horse, the farther they will fall as their rank and recurring hypocrisy is exposed."

ABC had come under fire amid recent revelations that it was habitually compensating its sources by way of large "licensing fees"—cash payments ostensibly for the use of proprietary photo and video material in its news segments. The network's news division paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for the use of photos in a story it ran in 2008 and promised $10,000 to the woman who claimed she regularly injected her child with Botox (though that cash offer was rescinded last May when the woman's story began to unravel).

Here's  a link to the Adweek piece by D. M. Levine.

What do you think? Do you care how an American network gets exclusive interviews? If ABC gets an interview with Anthony will you care about the $200,00 it paid her for "pictures"? How about ABC paying Megan Broussard for the "pictures" former Congressman Anthony Weiner sent her?

CORRECTION: The original post credited the wrong publication for the exchange.