Casey Anthony, the young mother charged with the murder of her daughter in 2008, was found not guilty Tuesday of killing her two-year-old, Caylee Marie.
Likely to be a free woman in a matter of days, Anthony will be deluged with offers from networks and tabloids for her first interview. And whoever wants it will likely have to pay.
“It seems inevitable that Casey Anthony and her family will try to capitalize on their situation and that they will hire a publicist, and perhaps even an agent, to identify and sort out immediate opportunities. No doubt her legal counsel will also want to limit her exposure and ensure she is careful with any statements she might make,” said crisis management expert Gene Grabowski. “Casey and her family have a short window of opportunity on which to capitalize – probably no more than a few months. It is generally acceptable for someone like Casey, who is not a traditional public figure and who is without substantial income, to accept a fee for a big, exclusive interview with the likes of ABC’s 20/20 or Oprah.”
Indeed with Katie Couric jumping from CBS to ABC, and Oprah Winfrey trying to jump-start her faltering new cable network, there could be big incentives for some of media’s power players to make a big push for an exclusive interview.
“I would not be surprised, given the notoriety and infamy of the case, if Casey gets $1 million to give a full interview,” California defense attorney David Wohl said.
Veteran Hollywood communications expert Michael Levine agreed.
“She could probably get $1 million from an outlet – it could be a network or a tabloid-type magazine,” he said. “But I wouldn’t recommend she do that, because she’s such an unsympathetic figure and a known liar.”
News outlets could also face a backlash.
“Big money will be involved in the deal – millions,” said publicist and media strategist, Angie Meyer. “But those who are upset about the verdict will be upset even more if Casey is awarded a generous sum of money from networks and/or publishers for her story. It’s a disturbing trend we’ve seen trickle down throughout large cases in the past decade. Those organizations that have vilified Casey for the last few years will also be the ones to make her a millionaire.”
At least one network has already shelled out significant amounts of money for Anthony-related information.
Meter reader Roy Kronk, the man who discovered the body of two-year-old Caylee Anthony, also found a dead rattlesnake in the same area several months before. He testified during the murder trial that he was paid $15,000 by ABC News in January to license a snake photo, and was subsequently interviewed by Good Morning America just after the body was found.
“I was paid for a licensed picture of a snake, but I knew there would probably be an interview involved,” he said on the stand.
ABC also paid Casey Anthony herself $200,000 for the exclusive licensing of personal photos and videos. The footage was broadcast on ”G.M.A.,” ”World News,” ”Nightline” and the prime time news show ”20/20.” In addition, the network conducted interviews with the Anthony family, but said in a statement that did not pay for interview access, only for photos.
Paying directly for interviews and stories — known as ‘checkbook journalism’ — is typical for outlets like RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer. But most network news divisions have ethics policies prohibiting them from paying for information. So how does money end up changing hands?
“Some networks are doing this under the guise on the entertainment division. There are new ways now that are euphemisms for paying,” explained Hagit Limor, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. “There are licensing fees, various other ways that money can change hands. The bottom line is that the people involved on both sides know that in exchange for the photo that you licensed that has nothing to do, necessarily, with the exact issue at hand; there will be an interview, which is what the outlet is after.”
For example, last month ABC News paid $15,000 for photos from Meagan Broussard, one of the women who was sent racy photos by Anthony Weiner, and subsequently she gave them an exclusive interview. In 2009, NBC News chartered a plane for Avi Goldman and his son, Sean, to fly from Brazil to the United States. The two were being reunited after a five-year custody battle that had been well-documented by the press.
“She can certainly profit from this case through book deals, movie deals, television deals etc., but she also risks making herself a bigger pariah than OJ Simpson if she’s seen as profiting from her child’s death,” explained Wohl. “If she agrees to talk, she could get paid a lot, but she will then have to explain all the details of the drowning, she will be asked about getting molested by her father and if she does, charges could be brought against him.”
And Anthony isn’t the only one who has the opportunity to cash in on the trial.
“The members of the jury perhaps have the most incredible story to tell because they haven’t said anything. Their story is worth more now than it would be if Casey was found guilty,” said Glenn Selig, founder of The Publicity Agency, which specializes in crisis management. “If big money comes from anywhere, it will be from the entertainment world – movies and books – where payment is commonplace. And the less of the story that is told now, the more valuable a book or movie deal will be.”
The blogosphere is already abuzz with reports that Hollywood is preparing to bring the story to the big screen. Names like Kristen Stewart and Lindsay Lohan have been thrown around as potential contenders to play Casey in a film centered on the horrible saga.
“The reason it’s such a juicy story is because it’s like a soap opera,” Levine said. “A beautiful little girl, a seemingly crazy mother, they’re all the components of a great soap opera.”
And even if the Anthony family declines all offers, the story will still be told.
“One thing you can count on is a ‘Law and Order’ type show with an episode ‘based’ on this case accompanied by a nice disclaimer that it is not based on reality,” Selig added. “And they won’t have to pay any of these players a dime.”