Yahoo! News Sun, Aug 29, 2004

Monica Lewinsky Defends Selling Story to Media

Sat Aug 28, 6:19 PM ET

By Adam Pasick

EDINBURGH, Scotland (Reuters) - Their relationships with two of the world's most famous men brought international scandals -- but Monica Lewinsky and Rebecca Loos both used the media onslaught to boost their bank balances.

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"You'd be an idiot not to get the money," said Lewinsky, the former White House intern whose affair with then-President Bill Clinton (news - web sites) nearly drove him from office.

"Advertisers, television stations, news anchors -- everyone else is making money. Your story is a commodity," added Lewinsky, who received a reported $718,800 for an interview with Britain's Channel 4.

Loos, whose alleged affair with soccer superstar David Beckham was front-page news for weeks in Britain over the summer, got about $150,000 for appearing on Sky News, according to her agent Max Clifford.

Lewinsky, Loos and Clifford justified their media relations in a panel discussion in Edinburgh Saturday at a British TV industry conference.

"Before, the media made a lot of money from people's stories. Now, the people with the stories make the money -- I don't have a problem with that," said Clifford, an agent famous for making lucrative interview deals with tabloid newspapers and television networks.

An increase in checkbook journalism, especially on television, has spurred debates about ethics and reliability, with critics arguing such deals deceive viewers and result in bad journalism.

"I wasn't big on buy-ups," said David Yelland, former editor of Britain's top-selling tabloid The Sun. "When you pay money the relationship changes. I think the British public understands that tabloids pay, but that hasn't been generally true with television."

Such deals can restrict the tone of the interview and which subjects can be covered. Asked what conditions he requires for his clients, Clifford answered: "Everything has to be done exactly as I want it, for as much money as possible."

In recent weeks, Britain's top commercial network ITV has paid a reported 100,000 pounds to Faria Alam, who made news for having an affair with English soccer coach Sven Goran Eriksson. The interview was a ratings disappointment, although ITV's Steve Anderson said the network did break even financially.

"There's never a guarantee -- some work, some don't," he said. "We're a player in the market because everyone else is."

Lewinsky and Loos said the paid interviews were a way to secure their financial future and to set the record straight.

"I got fired, didn't know my future and wanted a safeguard," said Loos, who had worked at one of Beckham's PR firms.

"I was reading so much, I wanted the chance to talk myself. I'd rather it come from me instead of holding my head down in shame."

None of the panelists was paid to appear in Edinburgh.