July 25, 2011

The Daily Beast | Poynter
ABC is ending a practice that “20/20” co-anchor Chris Cuomo just last month called “the state of play.” The network will no longer pay licensing fees to sources involved in stories. “It was starting to distract from important work,” said Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President, Communications, ABC News. ABC has been answering questions about this issue since it was revealed the network paid Casey Anthony $200,000 in 2008. More recently, they paid Meagan Broussard for a photo she exchanged with former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. And they’ve had to make clear they did not pay for interviews with Jaycee Dugard or Nafissatou Diallo, whose conversation with Robin Roberts started airing Monday morning.

“We’ve shown over a very long time, and as recently as this weekend, the gets are gettable and the interviews are achievable through good journalism and good work,” Schneider said by phone Monday afternoon.

“These licensing deals had become a crutch, and an unnecessary one,” Schneider told Howard Kurtz.

Kurtz reports that a broad review of practices, including this one, “found … that such payments could be approved at a relatively low level with little oversight, saddling the network with the fallout.”

According to Kurtz, Ben Sherwood, the new president of ABC News, “concluded that the cash-register approach to journalism was starting to tarnish the network’s credibility, even though the practice was relatively infrequent.”

If competition between ABC and NBC was partly responsible for the payments, as The New York Times has reported, perhaps NBC will now follow ABC’s lead.

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Julie Moos (jmoos@poynter.org) has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
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