“Good Morning America’s” June 15 interview with Casey Anthony’s parents George and Cindy Anthony may have been an exclusive for the ABC network. However, nowhere in the “Good Morning America” interview or the accompanying online article does ABC disclose the $200,000 payment to the Anthonys the network has made in the past for the licensing of photos used in an earlier interview.
Even though the recent online version of the story linked to a photo gallery “exclusive to ABC” filled with photos of the Anthony family, there is no disclosure that the network had paid for that exclusive access to images.
George and Cindy Anthony are the parents of Casey Anthony, who is currently charged with the 2008 murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. Their most recent interview with “Good Morning America” came two years after Caylee disappeared.
The Orlando Sentinel’s TV writer Hal Boedeker blogged June 14 in advance of the exclusive interview. Boedeker reported that ABC News said, “Any photos or video used in Tuesday’s segment was licensed under the deal two years ago,” when ABC News paid Casey Anthony’s family $200,000 for photos and videos of Caylee.
Boedeker noted that “The Anthonys were flown to New York for the interview, which was taped Friday and conducted by Ashleigh Banfield of ABC News. Banfield was free to ask anything she wanted, an ABC News spokeswoman said.”
Boedeker also wrote that “The spokeswoman said the network did not license any new photos or videos for the ‘GMA’ interview, and that information will be disclosed on Tuesday’s show.”
StinkyJournalism emailed ABC to ask about the lack of disclosures anywhere in the recent posted interview and photos and received no response.
StinkyJournalism reported Oct. 2009 about the practice of paying for content being veiled as licensing.
A “Good Morning America” producer arranged for George and Cindy Anthony to stay at “one of Central Florida’s most expensive hotels” in Dec. 2008, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
StinkyJournalism reported March 19, 2010 when ABC’s 2008 $200,000 deal with the Anthonys was outed in court. StinkyJournalism noted in that article that ABC was also accused of paying $200,000 to Joe Jackson after Michael Jackson’s sudden death in June 2009.
After ABC was exposed for the undisclosed $200,000 payment to the Anthonys, Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute wrote March 19 that the network’s lack of disclosure “presents a clear ethical conflict.”
The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics advises journalists to “avoid bidding for news,” a practice it labels “checkbook journalism.” Thanks to our columnist Robert Buckman, a SPJ ethics committee member, for providing the tip on this case.