The Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Committee is criticizing NBC News for providing the plane that carried David Goldman and his son, Sean, back to the United States following a high-profile custody battle.
The SPJ says that it is "appalled" that NBC News "breached widely accepted ethical journalism guidelines."
NBC conducted an exclusive interview with David Goldman during the flight it financed and another exclusive interview once the Goldmans returned to the United States.
In a statement, the SPJ calls what NBC did a case of "checkbook journalism."
The SPJ Code of Ethics urges journalists to act independently by avoiding bidding for news and by avoiding conflicts of interest.
"By making itself part of a breaking news story on which it was reporting — apparently to cash in on the exclusivity assured by its expensive gesture — NBC jeopardized its journalistic independence and credibility in its initial and subsequent reports," the SPJ says in a statement. "In effect, the network branded the story as its own, creating a corporate and promotional interest in the way the story unfolds. NBC's ability to report the story fairly has been compromised by its financial involvement."
"The public could rightly assume that NBC News bought exclusive interviews and images, as well as the family's loyalty, with an extravagant gift," Ethics Committee Chairman Andy Schotz said.
But in a statement issued to Multichannel News, NBC denies it paid for the interview.
"The Goldmans were invited on a jet NBC News chartered to fly home to the U.S. on Thursday, Dec. 24," the network said.
"NBC News has not and will not pay for an interview."