WIUM Tristates Public Radio

No Ethics in Checkbook Journalism

Nov 12, 2013

The Shop Talk panelists criticize NBC News for paying to gain exclusive rights to stories.

One of the most recent cases concerns a group of skydivers whose planes collided in mid-air. The Washington Post reported that the skydivers said their deal with NBC allowed them to do radio and newspaper interviews but prohibited them from talking to any other TV outlets for two weeks.  NBC says it only paid for use of the video shot from the helmet cams of some of the skydivers.

Journalism groups generally consider checkbook journalism to be unethical. The Shop Talk panelists feel the same way.  They believe reporters should work for stories rather than pay for them.

They also question the long-term value of this particular story. They doubt anyone would still be talking about it if not for the ethics questions raised by NBC’s actions.

The practice of paying for exclusive rights to a story or video is not new. Life Magazine paid Abraham Zapruder $150,000 in 1963 for the rights to his film that recorded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.