Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stolen tabloid sources sting: An old affair

A former Us Weekly editor named Jill Ishkanian is in hot water, with the FBI investigating whether she tapped into the magazine’s e-mail system to steal scoops about stars like Nick Lachey, Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen.

Sounds familiar. Sounds a lot like the 1990 scandal when the Feds busted an A Current Affair freelancer named Stuart Goldman for tapping into A Current Affair’s story list.

According to the LA Times, “Us Weekly staff told the FBI they began getting suspicious a few months ago when they noticed several of their celebrity gossip items, which they thought the magazine had exclusively, started showing up in other publications.”

That’s what happened with A Current Affair. With many expensive scoops turning up in the marketplace and on the competition, one of the show’s honchos set up a sting—a phony story that claimed Ron Reagan had a male lover named Tyrone in South Central LA. (Boy, did Fox honcho Barry Diller get steamed about that one!) The Treasury Department, LAPD and Fox cameras crashed their way into his house. Goldman's life was ruined.

Ishkanian's attorney told The Times that his client had access to the Us e-mail system after leaving the magazine, but that management had approved the arrangement. Also very similar to the Goldman story.

The story of course can be found in Tabloid Baby (see Chapter 8, Kings of Comedy). And Stuart Goldman’s version has been floating through cyberspace for about decade.

We’ve met Jill and interviewed her for a Court TV series. Now she could be starring in one. We hope she doesn’t go to jail.

Even in a business where Ethics is known as “the E word” or a county outside London, there are standards, and stealing hard-won (or in the case of Us, hard-bought) story credit is It’s not nice to steal journo’s work and sources (and it’s worse when you’re a big, lazy TV infotainment show swooping in to steal a world exclusive from small-town journos or a phonytabmag like Dateline stealing credit for our five-year-old exclusive!

Stealing from your mates as a joke doesn’t count. Again, read Tabloid Baby, if you haven’t already. Learn the rules.

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