Thursday, September 3, 2009

Checkbook Journalism and High Profile Cases

The practice of media outlets paying for stories is becoming more and more commonplace. Take for example, the kidnapping case in Antioch California where Jaycee Lee Dugard lived after she was taken 18 years ago by a registered sex offender. Neighbors and friends and clients of Phillip and Nancy Garrido talked freely with reporters from all over the world. Reporters lined up, each waiting their turn to get information to share about the shocking case. Suddenly a British reporter pushes to the front of the line, he tells a neighbor being interviewed he's willing to write a check for $2,000 if the neighbor will stop talking to other reporters and talk to him exclusively. The neighbor immediately accepted; and free interviews effectively ended for everyone involved. The chilling effect is substantial- if one person is being paid for their story why give yours away for free?

Manuel Garrido, began speaking freely to reporters about his son's past. Those days are now over. "No more free interviews," says Garrido,88. "Other people are getting paid." Documents and other tangibles like pictures, even a business card with a photo of Dugard fetched a $10,000 price tag.

What does this mean for lawyers and high profile clients? Sometimes its tough to explain to a client that some quick money won't necessarily help them in the long run. More reputable media outlets with a "we don't pay for interviews" policy will surely report the client is selling their story. The effects of that can filter into public opinion of the client and eventually could taint a jury pool. It is important when embarking on a high profile case to explain this reality to clients and explain the long term benefits of passing by a short term payday for bigger rewards later, like freedom.

1 comment:

JJones said...

For more about the Garrido's connection to the WatchTower Cult, and many other Jehovah's Witness rapes, murders, kidnappings, etc: