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Newsweek and ABC News shared a big exclusive on Monday: they got the first interviews, in print and on television, respectively, with Nafissatou Diallo, also (and unfortunately) known as “the Dominique Strauss-Kahn maid.” Both organizations are adamant that they didn’t pay for the interviews. “No, there was no financial arrangement in place to secure the interview with Ms. Diallo for Newsweek,” wrote a Newsweek spokesman over e-mail. The magazine’s cover story “THE DSK MAID SPEAKS” landed on newsstands Monday, while ABC’s interview, conducted by Robin Roberts, ran on “Good Morning America,” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.” Newsweek reporters were booked to appear on “Good Morning America” and talk about the story.
The network and the magazine denied any sort of arrangement to function as partners or have the exclusive together. The two got even more intertwined in the afternoon, however, when Newsweek media writer Howard Kurtz posted a story online, tweeting “Exclusive: ABC bans pay-to-play interviews, says it won’t buy photos and video from news subjects.”
This story first appeared in the July 26, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
ABC News’ publicist arm has always stuck to the line that “We don’t pay for interviews,” but there was always a loophole: license photographs or video from somebody, for example Casey Anthony or Joe Jackson, and then get an interview as part of the deal. Now the network says it won’t be exercising that loophole anymore.
ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said, “We’re still going to compensate a rights-holder for their picture. What we won’t do is you cannot then try to book an interview with that person. That is to avoid even the appearance of a perception problem.” There is still a provision for an extraordinary circumstances where a top executive could allow that sort of transaction.
That said, what did Diallo stand to gain through such a tightly controlled media coming-out if not money? Diallo’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Dan Abrams, ABC’s legal analyst, had one idea: the interviews put pressure on New York district attorney Cy Vance Jr., to try the case, which has seemed less likely in recent weeks. “She and her team clearly want to shame the prosecutors into not dropping the charges,” Abrams said. “This really was her final hope with regard to the criminal charges.”