ABC News paid $15,000 in photo licensing fees to Roy Kronk, “the meter reader who first discovered Caylee Anthony‘s remains,” Media Bistro’s TV Newser reported. The licensing fee, for a photo of a dead snake, was disclosed during Kronk’s testimony in the case.
Hollywood Reporter noted that “Kronk is a key witness for the prosecution of Casey Anthony.” Casey Anthony is the 25-year-old mother currently facing trial for the 2008 murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
Kronk did appear on Good Morning America in January 2009, according to his testimony. He stated during testimony “I was paid for — I was paid for a licensed picture of a snake but I knew there would probably be an interview involved, so.”
He added that he “was paid $15,000 for a licensed picture of the snake.” That picture briefly appears in the almost seven-minute segment. See the entire video segment, which doesn’t disclose the payment, here. This ABC News article also didn’t disclose the payment.
The Society of Professional Journalists weighed in on the Kronk payment yesterday, releasing a statement that the organization’s ethics committee “decries checkbook journalism.” SPJ’s ethics chairman, Kevin Smith, called checkbook jorunalsim “a habit” that “calls into question the motives of the source and the news outlets.”
iMediaEthics wrote in October 2009 when the Orlando Sentinel revealed that ABC News paid for a three-night hotel stay for Casey Anthony’s parents. In March 2010, Anthony’s attorney told the court that she was paid $200,000 by ABC News, money that Anthony has used toward her defense. The SPJ condemned that payment at the time.
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Tampa Bay’s Eric Deggans noted that the admission “wasn’t even the biggest news” in June 28th’s testimony, which is “a sad sign of today’s tabloid-skewed media environment.” Deggans suggested that the Good Morning America segment shows the photo in question so quickly “it is even more apparent” that ABC News was using the licensing fee as a way to buy the interview.
“Instead, the $15,000 likely bought exclusive access to Kronk, then a hot media commodity as the guy who helped resolve the mystery everyone suspected had an obvious answer: What happened to the cute , missing 2-year-old with the mom who didn’t report her missing for a month?”
Deggans called on news organizations to act ethically if they are going to resort to paying for access by disclosing the financial arrangement. But, he noted news outlets are reluctant to disclose that because readers will likely question the financial arrangement and information will become costly.
Deggans also criticized ABC News’ Chris Cuomo, who defended his network’s licensing photos from one of the women who had an online relationship with former Rep. Anthony Weiner, for lack of disclosure.
As iMediaEthics previously reported, Cuomo backed the $10,000 to $15,000 payment in an interview with CNN’s Howard Kurtz. Deggans’ criticism was that Cuomo didn’t disclose more fully the financial arrangement with the woman in its segment. As he noted, ABC News’ Cuomo identified the figure paid on CNN’s Reliable Sources and not on ABC News’ actual program.
“He was honest enough to admit the payment details on CNN, but not to his own viewers in his own story?” Deggans questioned.