April 07, 2006

The Gossip Protection Racket

In one of the funnier media news stories of the year, it came out today that Jared Paul Stern, a longtime writer for the New York Post's Page Six gossip column, had attempted to extort a story subject of the amount of $220,000, in exchange for agreeing to "protect" the source from ever appearing in the column. Stern was caught in an FBI sting, and may be indicted.

Stern's gambit reminds me of that of Harry Karafin, an ace investigative reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer in the '60s who went to prison after he extorted money from several investigative subjects, in exchange for not writing about them. And even more strangely, Stern's victim may soon own Karafin's old paper. It's Ron Burkle, head of the conglomerate Yucaipa Cos. and a major Democratic fundraiser, who is bankrolling one of the bids to purchase the 12 newspapers orphaned by the Knight Ridder/McClatchy merger (which include the Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and my own paper, the Trend Leader).

This also brings up all sorts of questions: Does Page Six do this sort of thing often? Why approach Burkle and not someone like Paris Hilton, who gets mentioned in Page Six every day anyway, and probably has more money than Burkle? And since this has become public, how will Page Six cover Burkle in the future? Will they mention this every time, and since that would be unbelievably awkward for the Post, won't he pretty much now get his immunity anyway?

Posted by Stephen Silver at April 7, 2006 03:27 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?