NBC’s ‘Today’ Opens Checkbook For High School Senior’s Story

By Alex Weprin 

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NBC’s “Today” is the latest network morning show to find itself in the spotlight after following the all-too-typical business practice of licensing footage from a story subject. A local news article about a local high school student who faked a pregnancy notes that the student, Gaby Rodriguez, was originally going to go on “Good Morning America,” but instead appeared on “Today” after she was offered compensation.

A local paper, the Yakima Herald, reported that she was offered a “scholarship” by the show, but Poynter’s Jim Romenesko got to the bottom of the situation. NBC News licensed video footage from her local school district. The money from that license fee was placed into a fund which can only be used for Rodriguez’s education.

The network morning shows regularly funnel compensation to potential interviewees. Most of the time they take the form of “licensing” photos and video, though other options–like travel and accommodations, are common as well.

“Today” did mention in the piece that it licensed the video footage, but it was buried in the middle. In addition, NBC did not specify which entity it licensed the footage from, and did not mention the fact that the funds would go to Rodriguez’s education.

“In this video of the assembly, licensed by NBC News, friends and teachers read some of the painful comments that had been spoken behind her back,” the correspondent in the “Today” piece said.

Last week ABC’s morning show faced criticism after it was revealed that it paid $10,000 to license photos from a broker for the “Botox mom.”