NBC News has fueled talk about “ethically questionable” checkbook journalism with the revelation that it will pay the family of Reeva Steenkamp, who was killed by Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, for interviews, reports The Washington Post.
Mainstream organizations typically shun the practice, as it may encourage sources to dramatize or exaggerate an account, the story notes.
“It also can create a conflict of interest that could introduce bias into the reporting of a story by putting an otherwise independent news organization into a financial partnership with a source,” the piece adds.
“Today” featured an interview with Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, on Tuesday, calling it “exclusive,” the report notes. Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed by Pistorius, her boyfriend, last year.
Pistorius is a South African sprinter who is a double amputee and a Paralympics champion. He became the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympics when he participated in the 2012 Summer Games in London. He is currently on trial for murder in South Africa in connection with Reeva Steenkamp’s death.
A spokeswoman for NBC News said a British unit of an NBC News subsidiary paid “a very modest licensing fee” for the cooperation of Steenkamp’s family. She declined to disclose the amount of the fee, which she said will go to covering “materials” that will be used to produce three documentaries for “outside clients.”
“Since last year, NBC has aired a series of exclusive interviews by offering cash payments and other inducements to people who have suddenly become newsworthy,” the piece notes.
The network “appears to have taken a more aggressive approach to securing the biggest ‘gets’ under its new president, Deborah Turness, who joined the network in August from ITV News, Britain’s leading commercial TV network,” the story adds.