NBC News has agreed to pay the family of Reeva Steenkamp, the South African woman killed by Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, for its cooperation in a series of interviews. The deal is the latest instance of pay-to-play, or “checkbook journalism,” by NBC, which has lined up a series of other newsworthy individuals by offering, in some cases, more than $100,000 for their cooperation.
In a second episode of apparent “checkbook journalism” in a week, NBC News has locked up exclusive interviews and amateur footage of an aerial accident with a six-figure fee to a group of sky divers who survived the collision of their two small planes. NBC’s news division has agreed to compensate the nine sky divers and two pilots who were involved in the accident for an appearance on Tuesday’s Today show, a story on NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams and a one-hour Dateline NBC special.
As ABC News moves away from checkbook journalism, its competitors are starting to gloat — and distance themselves from similar practices. “We were happy to hear about this change in ABC News policy,” a spokesperson for NBC News said. “We agree that their recent activity has been bad for journalism and the news industry. And we welcome them back to the practices that we work hard to uphold.” An ABC News insider, flabbergasted by the NBC comment, fired back saying, “NBC News lies about its practices, does not disclose the habitual payments it makes for interviews, and then has the gall to get up on a high horse.”