The practice of checkbook journalism, or paying for news, is discouraged by the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics. The code advises “be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.”
Both networks disclosed the licensing on-air. iMediaEthics watched both reports: ABC’s “exclusive” with miner “Super” Mario Sepulveda disclosed in the report that “ABC licensed video and other material from Mario” at the 2:52 mark. NBC’s Today show feature on miners Carlos Barrios and Victor Zamora discloses at the 3:47 mark that “some of the video you saw was licensed by NBC News.”
“Insiders tell TVNewser NBC News paid a $6,000 licensing fee to Barrios and Zamora while ABC News paid $20,000 to license Sepulveda’s video. Neither network would confirm the amount with TVNewser,” the Media Bistro blog reported.
ABC made headlines this year for other charges of checkbook journalism. For example, earlier this year it was revealed during court proceedings that the network had paid Casey Anthony $200,000 to license materials.
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iMediaEthics also wrote in June about ABC after Media Bistro reported that ABC News paid an undisclosed amount of money to license photos and text messages from Melody Granadillo, the ex-girlfriend of Joran van der Sloot, who has been charged with the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores. He also has been “a longtime suspect” in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway. ABC News’ interview with Granadillo was an exclusive.
The Society of Professional Journalists slammed NBC for checkbook journalism at the end of last year. NBC gave a free private jet flights to David Goldman and his son Sean, which the SPJ criticized but the network defended. The network noted in its defense that David Goldman had appeared on NBC more than 17 times prior to the flight.
See more iMediaEthics reports on checkbook journalism here.
iMediaEthics has written to ABC News and NBC News asking how much was paid to the miners and what exactly was licensed. We will update with any response.