Saturday, March 20, 2010

ABC News Paid Casey Anthony $200,000

In journalism, paying sources for interviews is supposed to be a no-no. The promise of money in exchange for information violates the profession's ethical code and can often lead to dubious information.

But ABC News now says it paid $200,000 to Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, for exclusive rights to videos and pictures that ran on the network and its Web site.

ABC also conducted interviews with the Anthony family, but said in a statement that it paid only for images, never for interview access.

"In August 2008, we licensed exclusive rights to an extensive library of photos and home videos for use by our broadcast platforms, affiliates and international partners," ABC's statement read. "No use of material was tied to any interview."

The payments were revealed Thursday in an Orange County, Fla., court proceeding, which was concerned with whether Anthony can be declared indigent and thus receive a taxpayer-funded defense.

On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland ruled that the state must pay some of the cost for Anthony's defense to ensure that she receives a fair trial. Anthony's defense team, who said they are working pro bono on behalf of their client, told the judge Thursday that Anthony's money from ABC had already been spent.

"Ethically, ABC is on very shaky ground," Fred Brown, vice chair of the ethics committee at the Society of Professional Journalists, told AOL News. "It's essentially paying for news, and any time you do that, you taint the news."

Paying sources for information is the stock and trade of publications like the National Enquirer, which broke the story of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter and also the news that the former presidential candidate was the father of Hunter's daughter, Frances. In many of the Enquirer's stories on Edwards, a source who remained anonymous was paid by the publication.

"Ideally, news should be produced without any money changing hands," Brown said.


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