Paris is Burning

Look who’s embarrassed about checkbook journalism.

Last week came reports that NBC had offered a sum in the “high six figures” for Paris Hilton’s first post-jail interview, decidedly trumping ABC’s $100,000 offer for an interview with Barbara Walters. According to the New York Times, “Such deals are not explicitly an exchange of cash for interview; they are arranged as payment for production materials,” and they’re “becoming increasingly common.”

Then the following happened, though in what order is hard to discern:

* Paris Hilton’s people allegedly decided not to ask for payment of any kind for an interview, apparently deciding that all this money-grubbing was not “playing tonally the way the Hiltons wanted it to play,” one insider told the Times
* NBC News denied ever offering to pay for the interview then said it wasn’t interested in the interview anyway.
* ABC too said it was no longer interested, even in a free interview.
* The heiress decided to go on Larry King Live on Wednesday.

It is worth noting that earlier last week NBC won the rights to an exclusive interview with Prince William and Prince Harry of Britain. That interview was part of a larger deal, the Houston Chronicle reported, in which NBC paid $2.5 million for American rights to broadcast a concert in honor of their late mother.

And lest CBS feel left out, it’s also worth noting that in late December 2003, The New York Times reported that CBS paid Michael Jackson $1 million to do a 60 Minutes interview, in addition to and as part of a $5M entertainment deal. According to an anonymous business associate of Jackson’s, “they didn’t pay him out of the 60 Minutes budget; they paid him from the entertainment budget, and CBS just shifts around the money internally. That way 60 Minutes can say 60 Minutes didn’t pay for the interview.” CBS issued several vehement denials.

We’re glad that everybody went pure and dropped the money offers for the great Paris interview. But we still might be washing our hair at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, and thus miss out. None of this is playing tonally with us.

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Adrianne Jeffries is an intern at CJR.