Friday, March 19, 2010

ABC News: A New Low in Checkbook Journalism in Anthony Case

casey anthony 1Image by piggie:) via Flickr
Four months after two-year-old Caylee Anthony of Orlando, Fla., disappeared in June 2008, a Grand Jury handed down a first-degree murder charge against the toddler's mother, Casey Anthony. The toddler's remains were discovered  in December 2008.

The tragedy continues to unfold in a Florida courtroom this week as a judge is determining whether to declare the defendant  indigent, which would mean the state assuming most of the cost of her defense in the death penalty case. Here, the story takes a particularly lurid turn as Anthony's lawyers disclosed that of the $275,000 spent thus far in her defense, ABC News has footed $200,000 of the bill.

ABC News claims that in August 2008, the news operation licensed exclusive rights to certain photos and home videos of the Anthony family. Furthermore, according to court documents, ABC News paid  Casey Anthony's parents' hotel bill for a three-night stay at a Central Fla. Ritz-Carlton.

Although money changed hands a couple of months before Casey Anthony was formally charged, there is no escaping that ABC News paid a substantial sum to an individual suspected of killing her child and that the financial arrangement was not disclosed publicly until a judge compelled counsel to reveal the news organization's involvement in open court.

The litany against the practice of checkbook journalism is well-known in media critic, journalist and academic circles: it deprives media outlets that can't afford to pony up payment access to news; it encourages "lazy" journalism to buy a story rather than ferret it out with old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting; it taints the objectivity of the news outlet to have a vested interest in covering a story it paid for, and it further blurs the line between news and entertainment.

And, as in this instance, it also makes those who have a functioning moral compass nauseous to read about it.

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1 comment:

  1. Not only has the State of Florida been dragging a dead baby through their courts since 2008, ABC has, in effect, been paying them to slow down so they can get more news from it.