SPJ Takes NBC to Task For David Goldman and Son's Jet Flight

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 B&C 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 news network was simply closing the loop
on an extensive association with the Goldmans.  "NBC News has not and will not pay for an

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

SPJ saw it
differently. It said 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.