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Bidding for Runaway Bride
June 21, 2005

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Remember Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks?

How could any of us forget the fleeing fiancee, considering the wall-to-wall media coverage we had to endure.

Well, now after pleading no contest to faking her own kidnapping, Wilbanks has been sentenced to probation and community service. She's also been fined $2,550 and is repaying the city of Duluth, Georgia, $13,250 toward the $40,000 search tab.

In addition, Wilbanks is receiving treatment at a mental health facility.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that she's just snagged a book and TV deal for a reported half-million dollars?

That's right. According to the New York Post, Judith Regan, head of ReganMedia, wanted to keep the alleged $500,000 enticement with the wide-eyed Wilbanks hush-hush.

The reason for the secrecy apparently had to do with NBC News' policy against paying for interviews; in other words, it purportedly looks down its nose at "checkbook journalism."

Although NBC claims it hasn't paid Wilbanks or Regan for an interview, reports and sources are linking the Katie Couric-Wilbanks heart-to-heart with the $500,000 package.

A "deal memo" in the form of an e-mail to the Wilbanks family from a Regan assistant reads in part: "I must stress the importance of keeping this deal and all its details absolutely confidential." "Nobody can know that this deal has gone through — and those who do know ... must keep it secret. Any leaks can lead to the cancellation of the first interview, and the cancellation of the deal. I cannot stress this strongly enough."

The compensation in the purported Regan agreement was tied to the "first interview" in this way: The agreement for the "television rights of the story of Jennifer Wilbanks and John Mason" says the couple will be paid "$500,000 ... after the completion of the first interview."

ReganMedia issued a press release, which stated that "the project is not with NBC, nor has any compensation been received from NBC."

Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post that Regan purchased the rights to Wilbanks' life story "after offering them $500,000 for a package that — in an unusual twist — included the first news interview with the couple."

Two sources familiar with the negotiations indicated that an exclusive interview with Couric was part of the discussion with ReganMedia.

NBC News' Allison Gollust said that NBC News never pays for interviews. "This was a 'get' by Katie," Gollust declared.

Regan happens to be tight with NBC, particularly with Couric's producer David Corvo. Regan has also obtained NBC access for some of her other authors, including prosecution witness for the Scott Peterson trial Amber Frey. It seems we now live in a culture where people are being rewarded for engaging in all sorts of criminal activity.

Guess that explains why there are so many book deals in D.C.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2005
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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