ABC News and Ted Koppel owe an apology for soiling the integrity of freelancers and the institution of journalism

12 Dec

Mr. Koppel, you owe an apology to the institution of journalism for soiling its integrity.

By Nate Thayer

December 12, 2013

Well, Mr. Ted Koppel, I, for one, would like to hear your response to my contention you pimped your reputation for integrity to ABC News/Disney Corporation in order to steal the life work of a freelance journalist. And then accepted a Peabody award for, well for doing exactly what, really?

This week has been a tad distracting, but I very much appreciate the overwhelmingly positive and supportive commentary from colleagues from around the globe over my objection to Ted Koppel and Nightline and ABC News, owned by the Disney Corporation, stealing my photographs, video, and exclusive eyewitness reports of Pol Pot, the cumulative result of more than a decade of my journalistic efforts, and ABC’s egregious violation of basic journalistic ethics and integrity by trying to take credit for that work, despite not having a single ABC employee assigned to all of South east Asia.

ABC TV stolen still pictures, in which they place four separate credits claiming this picture was taken by them and they had rights to distribute it. Note that, despite there not beingan employee of ABC news located in Southeast Asia at the time, there is no credit to the photographer of the picture

ABC TV stolen still pictures, in which they place four separate credits claiming this picture was taken by them and they had rights to distribute it. Note that, despite there not being an employee of ABC news located in Southeast Asia at the time, there is no credit to the photographer of the picture


Every freelance journalist on earth has faced untold numbers of similar experiences, but the cost of fighting back these huge media corporations makes most every case of this common practice almost impossible to fight back.

At least, in the case of the Pol Pot story and video and still images, the story was worth enough that lawyers, not my favorite category of people to spend my leisure time schmoozing with, were willing to take on my case.

It was not because they were outraged at the ethical and moral stench that this high-profile example of the routine treatment of freelance journalists by media behemoths represented.

It was because they knew they would make enough money to increase their tax bracket.

This allowed me to be able to fight back and win.

But, after 7 years of the most unpleasant life sucking process, after it became clear to ABC I would never be intimidated and never back down in the face of their behemoth corporate machinery, ABC demanded I sign a document saying I could never mention the issue again in public if they agreed to pay me for their clear-cut, intentional calculated theft and plagiarism of my copyrighted work.

Another ABC frame grab of my still pictures, taken after 15 years of work, which they distributed to the planet and took credit for

Another ABC frame grab of my still pictures, taken after 15 years of work, which they distributed to the planet and took credit for

I signed the document. I am now intentionally and without a scintilla of reservation or remorse violating that agreement. Because it an insult to the very fundamental premise of free speech and concept of a free press.

To demand that a journalist–that would be me– be forced to muzzle his right to free speech in order that another so-called icon of journalistic integrity compensate me for outright theft, after a very nasty, prolonged 7 year effort of blackmail, corporate intimidation, threats, bullying, and a bald attempt at bankrupting me, while Ted Koppel remained (and remains silent) shilling for his corporate pimps, was too much for me to stomach.

Koppel flew to Bangkok, signed a written legal contract promising to use the video for “Seven days North American rights only for video use only for Nightline only”, and then said to me: “You are going to have to trust me journalist to journalist” and looked me in the eye and shook my hand. That used to be the way journalists on deadlines dealt with each other. One had to trust another man’s word.

There was no time, and thank God, place for lawyers when a story needed to be written and produced and edited and researched and published on a very short tight deadline.

My still photograph, which became worthless on the international market after ABC TV America stole my pictures and tried to take credit for 15 years of my life work

My still photograph, which became worthless on the international market after ABC TV America stole my pictures and tried to take credit for 15 years of my life work

Ted Koppel then refused to talk to me for nine months. “My ABC lawyers have told me I can’t talk to you, ” is one direct quote, shortly after he got a hold of a copy of my video tape, which was transferred based on his personal word of honor and I accepted based on his reputation for integrity.

Ted Koppel had a price he was willing to sell his reputation for integrity, and by extension the integrity of the institution of journalism. That price was the instructions of his ABC/ Disney corporate bosses.

Then the ABC PR machine got a bit a head of themselves. They have an entire department devoted to applying for nothing but awards. And they made the mistake of applying for a Peabody award for their use of my stolen, copyrighted work, under my name, as a “correspondent for ABC Nightline.”

When I won, nine months after they stole my work, they had refused to pay me a penny until I signed a document saying they had done nothing wrong, I informed them I was scheduled to be in New York–ironically to accept another award for the annual “Courage in Journalism” given to the journalist who had “exhibited the most moral and physical courage in practicing his craft” that year.

I told Koppel I planned to attend the Peabody ceremony and, on stage, formally refuse the ward because “I in n o way wanted my name associated with egregious violation of journalistic ethics and integrity” that ABC television and Nightline had exhibited. My written invitation to the ceremony was rescinded by ABC and the Peabody awards and I was escorted from the Waldorf Astoria banquet hall by security guards, despite having not only been in a possession of a physical ticket but a recipient of one of the awards given that day.

I want to add here that I believe Koppel is indeed a man of integrity. He was one of the very best that American television had to offer. Which, in itself, is not saying much.

So, I signed the document where i promised to never speak a word disparaging of ABC on the matter, took the money they owed me, which virtually all went to lawyers and taxes, and am now saying “Fuck you ABC!”

You did what you did.

No one will ever force me to be gagged from telling the truth, particularly on issues that soil the reputation of the vital institution of a free press. The facts speak for themselves.

ABC, Ted Koppel, and Nightline, rightfully should be ashamed of themselves.

I am not and never will be.

Has anyone noticed, that after 3000+ FB reposts, tens of thousands of Twitter comments, tweets, and re-tweets, neither Koppel, ABC, Nightline, or Disney corporation has uttered a single comment or response?

Their silence speaks for itself.

I, for one, would welcome their constructive comments on this issue. I believe it would contribute to a healthier state of the now very sad state of the institution of journalism.

I suspect they will be required to consult their massive legal department and corporate bosses before they are allowed to open their mouths.

And, the fact is, the powers to be at ABC, and the ABC’s that, today, control the media in free societies don’t really care whether they are selling toothpaste or quality journalism to free people.

If they can make more money selling toothpaste, they will sell toothpaste. Maybe journalism, and free people, would be better off if they choose to sell toothpaste.

There is a reason that public opinion polls rank the credibility and trustworthiness of journalists at the same level they do used car salesman, members of Congress, and lawyers. And I for one am tired of having my reputation soiled by them.

While I harbor no animosity towards ted Koppel personally, I do take grave exception to the undermining of the ethical foundation of the institution of journalism. I take that very personally.

Mr. Koppel, you owe an apology to the institution of journalism for soiling its integrity.

5 Responses to “ABC News and Ted Koppel owe an apology for soiling the integrity of freelancers and the institution of journalism”

  1. Corrine December 12, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    What a disgrace!!!!!!!!! You have my support, albeit however so humble!

    Like

  2. Youkong Taing December 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Good on you Nate Thayer.You know you crash an egg with Big Rock,even you cannot break that Big Rock at least it gets dirty or smelly.Keep up with your good work I support you.

    Like

  3. Ace Maxs December 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    *The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

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    Like

  4. Max Hodges December 21, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    So, I signed the document where i promised to never speak a word disparaging of ABC on the matter, took the money they owed me, which virtually all went to lawyers and taxes, and am now saying “Fuck you ABC!”

    Why didn’t you refuse to agree that the terms of the settlement remain secret? How much did you get? Can you post documentation of the settlement agreement? Kind of basic things we’d expect from a journalist.

    Like

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  1. Off The Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Dec 10-16 - December 16, 2013

    […] ABC News and Ted Koppel owe an apology for soiling the integrity of freelancers and the institution … [Nate Thayer] […]

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