Schoolgirl Natasha Ryan had risen from the dead. Days into serial killer Leonard John Fraser’s trial for her murder, police discovered Ryan hiding in a cupboard. She’d run away from home, and stayed away for almost five years. Her family, and the authorities, presumed her dead. So when she turned up, alive, the race was on to cover the story. And to make some money from it.
Wherever there is a media scrum -- reporters, camera operators and soundos jostling against each other for up to $2000 a day each -- there’s someone looking to get a return on their investment. At the very centre, interviewees are also often paid. The news outlets telling their stories profit in ratings -- which they can in turn boast to their advertisers; there's dog food that needs to be sold, and this informs a chief of staff’s decision-making about resources, stories to chase, and cheques to write.
But what’s less known is the shadowy secondary economy that orbits the media. The agents that negotiate the interviews, "hone the message", sell the tell-all book, book the nightclub appearances and clean up the crisis also take a cut. Lawyers are engaged for advice on a particular case -- "chasing ambulances" not just for injury and compensation, but for defamation and privacy. And some new players have even moved in to profit off the battle for keeping Google search results clear -- we call them the online "scrubbers".