NBC News Accused of ‘Checkbook Journalism’

Nov 5, 2013  •  Post A Comment

NBC is coming under fire for two recent episodes of apparent "checkbook journalism," with NBC News most recently paying a six-figure fee to a group of skydivers who survived a plane collision, reports The Washington Post.

NBC News agreed to compensate the nine skydivers and two pilots for their appearance on "Today," a one-hour "Dateline NBC" special and a story on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," the story says. The "Today" appearance was scheduled for today, Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The group will receive more than $100,000 for its role, the story says.

"NBC would not confirm that figure, but the network said it paid only for use of the video. NBC said other news organizations were also bidding for the material," the story notes. Such paycheck journalism is considered unethical by the Society of Professional Journalists and other journalism organizations, the piece adds.

The payment to the skydivers comes after it was disclosed last week that NBC News is in talks to pay for an exclusive documentary deal with the family of Hannah Anderson, a teenager who was kidnapped by a family friend who had killed her brother and mother, the piece adds.

"Anderson, who survived her ordeal, already has appeared on the ‘Today’ show and ‘Dateline NBC’ in a series of exclusive interviews with the network," the piece reports.

The Post adds: "NBC News is under pressure to restore the ratings dominance of the ‘Today’ show, which has fallen behind its ABC rival, ‘Good Morning America,’ in the lucrative morning-news period. The two programs compete ferociously to book newsworthy guests, particularly those with a strong appeal to women, who comprise the majority of viewers for both shows. The competition has led to bidding wars for of-the-moment interview subjects in the past, although ABC News said it has banned the practice of paying for interviews."

An NBC News spokeswoman said licensing the footage of the incident with the skydivers "is standard industry practice and is the result of a very competitive process with other major broadcast outlets."

hannah anderson-nbc-today.pngHannah Anderson on "Today"


  1. Of course when your show is number 2 or 3 it is perfectly okay to buy your ratings back just like ABC News used to do when it was in this position.
    News operates under the same business model as Entertainment and the journalistic lines/ethics take a hit in order to become the almight number 1.
    In the end, who really cares? News is content, content is product, and product derives advertisers trying to reach a mass audience.
    I believe that Les Moonves said it best when journalists are represented by agents who have no problem asking for a lot of money. The same with content in my opinion.

  2. The Today Show can pay for an appearance by God for all I care. I am never going back to that horrible piece of schlock helmed by witless, feckless idiots. And I know for a fact that many people feel the same way.

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