Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Checkbook Journalism Ends on `Current Affair'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Checkbook Journalism Ends on `Current Affair'

Article excerpt

THE STRANGEST thing happened: "A Current Affair" has called for higher journalistic standards.

Stranger still, it pledges to uphold them.

The issue is checkbook journalism. John Tomlin and Bob Young, who created "Affair" eight years ago and recently were brought back to run it again, have announced they are putting their checkbook away.

"We're not going to pay for interviews," says Tomlin, who has paid for plenty of them in his time - "and if we do on occasion, the audience will be told about it."

Clearly, it's no longer business as usual.

According to Tomlin and Young, their policy of virtuous restraint (or, in lieu of that, frank and full disclosure) becomes an integral part of Twentieth Television's "Affair" as this granddaddy of syndicated news magazines tries to recover from a poor third place against King World's "Inside Edition" and Paramount's "Hard Copy."

An early sign that "Affair" wants your respect: These days, an entire half-hour can go by without so much as a mention of O.J. Simpson. Even more telling, longtime senior correspondent Steve Dunleavy, who embodies all that is brash and squalid about tabloid TV, was fired last week.

Now Tomlin and Young promise that with the start of its ninth season Sept. 11, the more current "Affair" will boast a new emphasis on investigative stories (averaging three per week), a new 20-person investigative unit, and a brand-new Washington bureau keeping a hungry eye on government wrongdoing.

And not only will "Affair" not engage in checkbook journalism, it will blow the whistle on other shows that do.

Vows Young, "If there is an interview that we know some other show, be it network or syndicated, paid for, we'll still do the story - but we'll say, `We wanted to get so-and-so's opinion, but he wanted $10,000 to speak to us . . . and "Hard Copy" paid it.' "

As yet, rivals of "Affair" haven't risen to its challenge to curtail the shopping spree.

Meanwhile, the peddling goes on. With undisguised disgust, Young produces an all-too-common letter from a Los Angeles attorney "selling an exclusive interview" with his client, who happens to be marginally connected with the Simpson case. …

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