Did OK!, the celebrity gossip magazine, really pay $1 million for exclusive rights to the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy story? US Weekly, a competing whisper weekly, seems to think so, going so far as to print the claim on the cover of US last week.
But, as an article in today’s Times points out, the prevalence of “checkbook journalism” is common among such publications. Paying celebs for exclusive photo and/or interview rights is hardly a novel notion. And such transactions are not always intended to remain so hush-hush, either. Remember when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sold People the rights to take pictures of their daughter, Shiloh, for a rumored $4 million? Or just consider all of the recent, widespread rumors that Lindsay Lohan has shopped her whereabouts to the paparazzi in exchange for cash. After all, it seems only fair that stars who are constantly hounded by armies of aggressive photographers have an opportunity to grab a slice of what is really, at the end of the day, their own pie.
What is new about US’ recent allegations, as the article points out, is the pregnancy issue. OK!’s American edition editor, Sarah Ivens, said that if paying for the pregnancy story did in fact occur, they would not have been the only potential buyers. “If there’s something out there, there will be a bidding war,” she said, adding: “We’re not bidding against ourselves.” Asked if her magazine did in fact pay Ms. Spears for the expecting exclusive, Ms. Ivens said: “I’m not very good at lying.”