Freelance Journalist Denounces ABC

January 7, 2014

If this tale is true, it gives us a new angle on real journalists. Blogger Nate Thayer charges, “How Ted Koppel and ABC TV Tried to Steal my Life Work.” The freelance journalist’s post begins with a bold move: Thayer declares that though he is legally prohibited from describing what happened, he is doing it anyway. Thayer all but dares his nemeses to try to reclaim their settlement money, which he says went to lawyers and taxes anyway.

As most legal sagas do, this one begins years ago. We are told:

“On July 25, 1997, I was the first outsider to meet Pol Pot since he killed 1.8 million people 20 years before. It was, for a couple of days, the biggest story in the world. I, as a freelance journalist, had the only photographs and video and eyewitness account that existed since Pol Pot did what he did. It was a tumultuous few days of dealing with the very worst of what the big media companies represented.”

See the story for the details (and see here to brush up on Pol Pot), but basically Thayer says ABC agreed to certain terms regarding Thayer’s valuable footage, then brazenly broke them, callously scooping Thayer of 15 years of work.

He writes:

“My picture, credited to ABC TV, was published on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers around the world, my footage was distributed around the globe, and my story was written in virtually every major news organ on earth, credited to ABC TV, before I actually had written my own story…. ABC distributed transcripts of the trial of Pol Pot I had made and allowed other news organizations to view the video tape with strict instructions to credit ABC for the images and story, and then refused to pay me anything unless I signed a release that they did nothing wrong and I promised not to take legal action against them. I refused.”

After spending seven years in court over this betrayal, and winning, why publish these charges now? It looks like Thayer is more interested in exposing ABC as a nest of journalistic-integrity-challenged cads than in recompense. Naturally, there are multiple sides to every story; we don’t know what Koppel and company would have to say about the matter. Though ABC may not wish to dignify the angry article with a response, apparently Thayer has gotten a lot of positive feedback on his post.

Cynthia Murrell, January 07, 2013

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