CNN analyst forgoes $10K moderating fee

By: Allen Wolper

CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is forgoing a $10,000 fee for moderating a U.S. Department of Defense-funded conference on the interaction between journalists and public officials during a bioterrorism attack.
“I should have paid attention to where the funding was coming from,” Greenfield says. “I didn’t, and it is my fault. I don’t even do USIA [U.S. Information Agency] stuff. This has been a good lesson.”
Earl Casey, CNN’s vice president of public affairs, says Greenfield violated the cable TV network’s stringent ethics policy by accepting a fee from an organization the network covered.
“We don’t accept money from people we report on,” Casey explains. “We try to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Jeff did the right thing by giving the money back.”
Greenfield decided to return the $5,000 advance he had received and forgo the rest of his fee after E&P questioned him about it.
The CNN analyst was paid for moderating a 90-minute socratic dialog July 26 entitled “Reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction: Responsibility, Reliability, and Readiness.” The panel included journalists, Pentagon officials, law-enforcement officers, and public-health administrators.
The all-day conference, held at the University Club in New York, was produced under a $35,000 Department of Defense contract with Fred Friendly Seminars Inc. of the Columbia University School of Journalism, and the International Advisory Group, which specializes in seminars.
Richard Kilberg, executive producer of Fred Friendly Seminars, says the U.S. Army had nothing to do with selecting Greenfield as the moderator.
“We had used Jeff before, and he was very good,” Kilberg explains. “He was the only one who was paid. We always pay the moderator because he has to work with us on producing the program. We pay for the expenses of the panelists.”
Bradley Graham, the Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post, and Michael Oreskes, the Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, told the conference producers a month ago they could not accept any expense money because the Defense Department was funding the seminar.
“They offered to pay for my plane trip and a hotel,” Oreskes tells E&P. “But I told them The New York Times would pay for my expenses.”
Graham, citing the same ethical considerations as Oreskes, explains that his newspaper forbids accepting any kind of payment from government agencies. “We are not permitted to do that,” he says.
Brig. Gen. Bruce M. Lawlor, who proposed the conference last January, says the Army’s only input involved money and military advice.
“We had no say on who the moderator was,” Lawlor explains to E&P. “We went to Fred Friendly [Seminars], and they picked the people they wanted to participate.”
Kilberg discloses that he informed Greenfield “several weeks before the conference” that his fee would be paid under a Department of Defense contract. Greenfield acknowledges that Kilberg had briefed him on the manner in which the conference was funded.
“I am not saying they didn’t tell me,” Greenfield says. “I am saying that I
wasn’t paying attention to what they told me. When it was first brought to my attention, I figured, ‘Fred Friendly Seminars, what could be better?'”
Casey, the vice president of public affairs, says CNN’s ethics committee, chaired by David Kohler, CNN’s chief counsel, must clear all paid and nonpaid appearances.
“Jeff didn’t bring this to us because he thought he had prior clearance to do all Fred Friendly Seminars,” Casey says.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher July 31, 1999) [Caption]

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