NBC: We Didn't Pay For Goldman Interview

NBC says it didn't pay for its interview with David Goldman.

That came in response to a statement from The Society of Professional Journalists taking it to task for what it called crossing the line into checkbook journalism.

In a statement issued Monday, SPJ said its journalistic ethics committee was "appalled" by the news that NBC had provided the plane that flew Goldman and his son back from Brazil after a high-profile custody battle, saying NBC made itself part of the story and called into question its "neutrality, Integrity and credibility."

NBC News has not and will not pay for an interview, said NBC of the Christmas Eve invite to the Goldman's to hitch a ride on the plane on which NBC staffers were returning from covering the story.

"The Goldmans were invited on a jet NBC News chartered to fly home to the U.S. on Thursday, Dec. 24," the network told Multichannel News in a statement. "NBC News has followed this story since the Goldman's story first ran on Dateline nearly one year ago -- David Goldman since has appeared on Today seventeen times," suggesting the Goldman's were simply closing the loop on an extensive association with the news network. "NBC News has not and will not pay for an interview."

NBC got the first exclusive interview with Goldman during the flight for Today Monday.

SPJ viewed the matter differently, saying the the race to be first with a story should not mean buying interviews, calling the flight "an extravagant gift" that viewers could assume secured NBC exclusive interviews, video footage and the family's good will.

"By making itself part of a breaking news story on which it was reporting -- apparently to cash in on the exclusivity assured by its expensive gesture -- NBC jeopardized its journalistic independence and credibility in its initial and subsequent reports," said SPJ in its statement. "In effect, the network branded the story as its own, creating a corporate and promotional interest in the way the story unfolds. NBC's ability to report the story fairly has been compromised by its financial involvement."

SPJ promotes free speech and the free flow of information on behalf of nearly 10,000 members, according to the group. Its code of ethics includes avoiding paying for access to news or newsmakers.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.