Nate Thayer Breaks His Silence

In 1997, Nate Thayer became the first western journalist to interview Pol Pot in decades.  His exclusive interview is the type of thing that news reporters dream of scoring.  But Thayer soon felt that dream turn into a nightmare, as he alleged that ABC News illegally stole and redistributed his copyrighted work.  The matter soon went to the courts and after seven years of legal wrangling, ABC paid Thayer a settlement in return for Thayer agreeing not to talk about the issue in public again.  In a recent posting on his blog, Thayer “intentionally and without a scintilla of reservation or remorse” violated that agreement to finally tell his side of the story.

On December 8th, 2013, Thayer authored a blog post on titled “How Ted Koppel and ABC TV Tried to Steal my Life Work.” Thayer, a freelance journalist working in Cambodia during the 1990s, had interviewed Pol Pot in October 1997 for a story that appeared in the Far East Economic Review.  His exclusive access to the Khmer Rouge leader, which also included video and photographs, was quickly sought by major American media companies.  Ted Koppel and ABC’s Nightline secured limited rights to use the video of Thayer’s interview, but Thayer claims the company immediately exceeded the terms of their agreement and took credit for his work as an “ABC News Exclusive.”  So upset by this turn of events, Thayer refused to accept the Peabody Award he was granted for the story as a “correspondent for ABC Nightline.”

Thayer is telling his story now despite the fact it puts his financial settlement from the news organization in jeopardy, citing the importance of free speech in journalism and the plight of freelance reporters who are often at a marked disadvantage when dealing with large multimedia conglomerates.