NBC Mum on Buying Hilton Interview; Why Would Any Journalist Give Political Money?
It seems obvious now -- amid rumors NBC is offering $1-million for the first post-jail Paris Hilton interview -- that NBC is continuing the ethical two-step that has allowed them to get high-profile interviews with Princess Diana's sons and develop the widely watched To Catch a Predator series, opening its checkbook to buy access.
As the Los Angeles Times details nicely here, it's a dance well-known to network executives. You cut a deal with an interview subject for some ancillary material -- paying them for video footage, or personal mementos or, in the case of the royals, rights to broadcast a charity tribute concert (the only mistake CBS seemed to make in offering a similar deal to Jessica Lynch was putting the money offer in the same letter where news coverage was detailed). Everyone involved knows the cash also includes a Big Interview, but technically the money is a payment for materials or a fee from the entertainment division (CBS, for example, bought a Michael Jackson special it never aired).
Clearly, the network suits haven't read that part of the journalism ethics code which talks about the appearance of impropriety being bad as actual wrong doing. And given that the interview with the royals was such a ratings hit -- Monday night's Dateline NBC got its best rating in two years -- no one should expect this practice to end anytime soon.
UPDATE: CBS' Public Eye blog suggests dropping the pretense and openly paying for interviews. Isn't that a bit like saying everybody wants to speed anyway, so why not get rid of speed limits?
More Stuff, In No Particular Order
--- The Orlando Sentinel is among the first Tribune newspaper web sites to present a redesign. Looks OK, though I think it remains confusing and cluttered. Few newspapers have licked the basic problem with Web site design -- put too much on the home page, and you confuse the reader, put too little,and they have no idea how to find all the cool stuff you have to offer.
--- I'm always surprised by stories about journalists giving hundreds of dollars to political candidates. And this MSNBC story noting 144 journalists who gave political contributions between 2004 and the start of the 2008 campaign was no exception. I'm wondering: a) how can journalists afford to be giving thousands of dollars to political candidates, and b) why would news reporters court such obvious conflicts of interest? There's lots of complaints about the overwhelming amount of money given to Democrats -- 125 to 17 -- which is yet another reason why journalists should avoid this kind of stuff. Romenesko posted a link to a very cool dissection and debunking of the story here.
-- I was also amused by Gov. Schwarzenegger's warning to Hispanics that they should reject Spanish-language media -- that it is mostly a crutch which keeps them from assimilating in the U.S. Besides noting that what he says is true in a ruthless, bottom-line kind of way, I was also struck by how old school that vision is these days. One thing I think black folks have taught other dispossessed groups in the U.S. is how to demand inclusion on their own terms. Why accept the notion that participating in America means leaving all your culture behind? I have a feeling Hispanics are going to define a new American culture which blends part of their Spanish-language heritage more strongly with our own.
Just a thought.
Super cool Kathy Griffin spot sparring with Larry King and Anderson Cooper