Friday, May 04, 2007

The D.C. Madam

She's all over the news. Deborah Jeane Palfrey, dubbed by the media "The D.C. madam," is accused of running an illegal prostitution ring in Washington D.C., which supposedly serviced a number of high profile political figures.

Palfrey insists her company was not illegal. She said her employees were hired by clients to perform "fantasy sex," which never constituted actual sexual contact.

The government has seized a number of her assets making it impossible for Palfrey to hire a legal powerhouse. So instead of relying on hotshot lawyers, she has enlisted the help of ABC News to track down clients who she says she can get to testify on her behalf that nothing illegal took place. She provided the station with hundreds of pages of phone records.

In turn, ABC is having a field day with the story. This tantalizing tale has come just in time for sweeps. The story has been in the public eye for a few months but the network has been able to keep alid on most of the details in time for May sweeps. They have been dropping little teasers--a name of an alleged client here and another name there--in order to build interest for a May 4th 20/20 tell-all.

I guess I don't really have a problem with what ABC is doing in this situation. Let's face it...they lucked out. She could have gone to any network with her client phone lists and she chose ABC. There was no information in there that was time-sensitive, so why not wait until sweeps to reveal the names during a highly publicized special.

However, I have to wonder if networks ever have crucial stories, stories that could impact the health and welfare of thousands of viewers that they sit on and wait until sweeps to reveal. I can think of a number of investigative stories that stations play during sweeps--chances are they had the knowledge long before that month, but chose to wait to air it.

If news is supposed to benefit and inform viewers, the whole concept of sweeps and the behaviors it promotes at stations kind of contradicts that.

However, in the case of the D.C. Madam, I don't think it really mattered when the story was told.

As for what's going to happen next? Guess we'll have to tune in...


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