Amanda Lamb’s new book will be released in just a few days. The excerpt from it indicates that she classifies this case as a domestic violence case. The overwhelming majority of us who watched the trial and listened to the testimony were unconvinced at the domestic violence claims. Some will say “oh, it doesn’t have to be physical, it can be emotional abuse” and I agree that DV can take that form, but it wasn’t part of the Cooper’s relationship in any way, shape or form. The issues that arose at the trial stemmed from a budget, lack of access to bank accounts and disagreements over Brad wanting to hold one of the children’s passports so Nancy wouldn’t be able to flee with the children.
Nancy was given a substantial cash allowance of $300/week and she was free to come and go as she pleased. Brad often watched the children while Nancy was out with friends and went on trips with family and friends. Brad would give her additional cash for trips. That doesn’t sound like a controlling relationship to me.
When I first learned of this book, the trial hadn’t even started. There is an obvious conflict of interest here because Amanda Lamb covered this story from the beginning and all throughout the trial. From the beginning her book was to be about domestic violence regardless of what was presented at the trial and she was able to influence public opinion with her news articles. Her future book sales were also dependent on a “guilty” verdict. The more she could convince the public that Brad was guilty of domestic violence, the more books she would sell and the more she would profit from this tragedy. One day after Brad was convicted, she wrote an article titled, “Nancy Cooper Case was About Domestic Violence”.
Now she is using her position at WRAL to promote the book:
WRAL reporter Amanda Lamb’s latest book hits store shelves Dec. 6, and she’ll be out promoting it this weekend. Amanda wrote “Love Lies” about the Nancy Cooper murder case, a story she covered for WRAL.
Amanda says the main message of “Love Lies” is that domestic violence happens in every socioeconomic level of society and that education and money are not barriers to domestic abuse. It is not always a black eye or a broken arm. It can be much more subtle than that.
Amanda Lamb is clearly violating journalistic ethics. How can it be permissible to report on a case for a news organization while simultaneously writing a book about that very case? It wasn’t as if she’d planned to wait until the trial concluded to write this book. She had the title and cover and at least some of the book written before the trial even began.
From every article I’ve read, this certainly violates ethical standards in journalism. From the article, “How journalists avoid conflicts of interest”,
According to the Anti-Corruption Resource Center Web site: “A conflict of interest arises when an individual with a formal responsibility to serve the public participates in an activity that jeopardizes his or her professional judgment, objectivity and independence. Often this activity primarily serves personal interests and can potentially influence the objective exercise of the individual’s official duties.
From the New York Times Policy on Ethics in Journalism:
133. Staff members who plan outside writing or other outside creative work must never permit an impression that they might benefit financially from the outcome of news events. Thus a staff member may not negotiate about rights to an article or story idea before the article has appeared. Staff members involved in covering a running story may not negotiate over creative works of any sort based on that coverage until the news has played out.
I don’t know what WRAL’s policy is, but clearly ethics were violated here. What if Brad had been found “not guilty”? What would have happened to her book deal? She was in a position where the outcome of the news story influenced her future financial profits from the book. What motivation would she have had to report what really happened….the police misconduct, the biased judge, the jury being barred from hearing key testimony? None. Her book deal would fall through.
I have written to the General Manager of WRAL and since they are an affiliate of CBS, I will write to corporate management there as well. If you agree that a conflict of interest occurred, please write to Steve Hammel, V.P. and General Manager at WRAL and let him know your thoughts.
Edited to add: Here is the response I received from the News Director of WRAL:
Thank you for contacting WRAL and sharing your concerns about Amanda Lamb's book. We do not believe there are any ethical concerns here. Amanda is among several reporters who've reported on this case for WRAL. Our coverage has been and will continue to be accurate, fair, and thorough. Rick Gall News Director WRAL News
Please continue to let them know that you are not okay with this and that it does greatly diminish their integrity.