NBC News Accused of Unethical ‘Checkbook Journalism’ by Society of Professional Journalists

Dec 29, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The Society of Professional Journalists is "appalled" that NBC News gave a ride to the U.S. from Brazil to David Goldman, and his son, who have been involved in a high-profile custody battle.

In a statement, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andy Schotz said, "The public could rightly assume that NBC News bought exclusive interviews and images, as well as the family’s loyalty, with an extravagant gift." 

NBC taped the first exclusive interview with Goldman during the flight, for the Monday “Today” show.

NBC claimed it didn’t pay for the interview, noting, "The Goldmans were invited on a jet NBC News chartered to fly home to the U.S. on Thursday, Dec. 24," and adding, "NBC News has followed this story since the Goldman’s story first ran on Dateline nearly one year ago — David Goldman since has appeared on Today seventeen times." The NBC statement was printed by B&C.

 "Mixing financial and promotional motives with an impartial search for truth stains honest, ethical reporting," Schotz said in the SPJ statement. "Checkbook journalism has no place in the news business."

–Elizabeth Jensen and Chuck Ross


  1. This is a long-standing trick by news organizations, claiming they don’t pay for interviews. They hide the payments by buying a photo or a plane ride or access to tangible documents, but never, no, never, to the interview itself. Where was SPJ all the times ABC and CBS did the same bit of sleight-of-hand?

  2. I agree with Doug – this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, least of all the SPJ.

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