OK! Magazine, the now-infamous celebrity news and gossip source, could not possibly have purchased all the attention it enjoyed last month after it got the scoop that Jamie Lynn Spears is three months pregnant.
Or could it?
It is widely assumed within the publishing industry that OK! paid Jamie Lynn Spears' family for the exclusive rights to Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy news.
Us Weekly, another celebrity news magazine, cited sources who said that Jamie Lynn's mother, Lynne Spears, sold them the pregnancy story for $1 million, an assertion that enraged her ex-husband and Jamie Lynn's dad, Jamie Spears.
Checkbook journalism is no secret in the celebrity gossip world.
The gossip publications often pay for photos of weddings and babies, perhaps most famously in June 2006 when People won a fierce bidding war for the first photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's daughter, Shiloh Nouvel.
Although People said that the widely reported $4.1 million price tag was not accurate, it did not offer an alternative figure; editors say that disclosing prices paid would work against efforts to keep the costs down.
But purchasing news of a pregnancy is as unusual as it is controversial. After OK! broke the story of a pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears, rival celebrity news tabloid Us Weekly boasted in its subsequent issue that OK! paid Lynne Spears $1M for it.
The two-year-old American edition of OK! Magazine, like its 14-year-old British counterpart, acknowledges paying for "relationships" with celebrities, but Sarah Ivens, the U.S. edition's editor, declined to discuss specific deals or figures.
"If there's something out there, there will be a bidding war," Ivens told The New York Times. "We're not bidding against ourselves."
When asked why she was less hesitant than some competitors to acknowledge purchase of celebrity photos, Ivens said: "I'm not very good at lying."
The interview with Jamie Lynn Spears, 16, drew copious attention to OK!, which sells far fewer copies than competitors like People, and provoked speculation about a relationship between OK! and Lynn Spears - a relationship strained by a disastrous photo shoot with Jamie Lynn's sister, Britney Spears, months ago.
Continue reading this New York Times' report on paying for celebrity news ...