The Cutline

Why there won’t be an uproar if news outlets pay for Amanda Knox interviews

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Knox in Seattle on Oct. 4, 2011. (AP/Elaine Thompson)

The media has found a fresh pursuit to punctuate its recent frenzy over the Amanda Knox verdict: the race to get the first post-release interview with the American college student, recently released on murder charges in Italy.

Both ABC and NBC are said to be pushing hard for a sit-down with Knox, whose family has said it is nearly bankrupt from the more than $1 million in legal fees related to the case.

"I don't even look at how deep the financial hole is," Edda Mellas, Knox's mother, said last week. "When Amanda gets out we'll think about that." Elizabeth Huff, Knox's grandmother, took out a $250,000 loan.

All of which could present a delicate situation for the outlets pursuing a Knox exclusive, given that the practice of paying for interviews has come under fire.

In July, ABC News said it would stop paying licensing fees for photos and videos in the case of exclusive bookings--a common arrangement in the television industry--after the network's payments to Casey Anthony and others were criticized. (ABC paid Anthony more than $200,000 in licensing fees in 2008, before she was charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter; Anthony was acquitted earlier this year.) ABC executives told the Daily Beast that the new policy was "not an absolute ban" but that it "would take an extraordinary circumstance to allow a licensing fee—perhaps once every couple of years—that would require approval at the highest levels."

Is Knox an extraordinary circumstance?

"No," a spokeswoman for ABC News told The Cutline. The network, she said, will not loosen the new strictures on paying for interviews just because of the Knox family's large legal debt.

But unlike Anthony, whom many Americans believe is guilty despite her acquittal, Knox has sparked a celebratory outpouring over her return to the United States. That might prompt critics of the media's pay-for-play protocols in sensational high-viewership criminal cases to look the other way if a network decided to engage in the practice this time around.

Once the race for a Knox sit-down is settled, a second but no less important media-related fight will likely commence over the inevitable Amanda Knox book. Reporters who have covered the case say that it's a forgone conclusion for Knox--who is said to be a gifted writer--to write a book, given that she wrote friends and family members long letters from her Italian jail cell and kept a detailed journal.

"We know she was a prolific writer in prison," NBC's Stephanie Gosk said on Tuesday. "Much of that book may already be written." CBS News has reported that Knox "began to write a memoir while in prison."

All that remains to be determined is who will publish Knox's memoir--and the bidding war over the manuscript could well help to solve the family's financial woes. According to several publishing executives, Knox should command a low seven figure offer, at minimum.

"Amanda Knox is going to be big, because she is so young and she's so all-American looking," Los Angeles-based literary agent Charlotte Gusay told Agence France-Press. "And we go by how things look."

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