Gossip World Rocked by Unscrupulous Reporter

What Everyone Is Talking About Today

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- We apologize to all our readers who look forward to Friday’s Tabloid Report, but the gossip world is too stunned to focus on Britney and Brangelina today. Page Six’s Jared Paul Stern has managed to shock the most unshockable of jaded media elites with the revelation from no less than the FBI that he attempted to extort money from a billionaire in exchange for not writing untrue items about him.

Stern, a frequent contributor to the New York Post’s Page Six, has been suspended and is under FBI investigation for his extortion attempt of billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, according to reports in a very nearly gleeful New York Daily News (front page banner headline “PAGE SIX SCANDAL”) and more restrained New York Times (P. B2 of the Metro section, with headline “Freelancer is subject of extortion inquiry”). During a sting monitored by law enforcement, Stern was videotaped offering Burkle “protection” from inaccurate stories. Burkle has been something of a regular on Page Six, the subject of a string of unflattering stories that paint him as a womanizer and “party boy.”

After he complained repeatedly to the paper, Burkle was approached by Stern who offered him a solution to his problem. Stern wrote in an e-mail to Kevin Marchetti, an employee of Burkle’s, that Burkle has the means to work out a “strategy for dealing with [the coverage] and regulating it.”

As the Daily News reports, when Burkle finally agreed to a meeting, Stern outlined the three levels of protection. At the first level, Burkle could act as a source, sending the column tidbits about his celebrity friends in return for immunity for himself. Burkle refused. Stern then explained that Burkle could earn the second level of protection by hiring Stern’s friends to do PR. The third level of protection, explained Stern on the videotape, was “some way to be in business with the paper, more of a colleague.”

During the meeting, Stern asked Burkle to invest in his clothing line, Skull and Bones. When Burkle refused, Stern settled for cash, saying “Um, $100,000 to get going and then you could get it to me on a month-to-month, maybe like $10,000.”

The dialogue for the meeting between the blackmailer and his victim reads like something out of a schlocky mafia movie, as recounted in the Daily News. When Burkle offers to hire Page Six editor Richard Johnson’s wife, Stern reprimanded “Being friends with Richard is fine, but that will not stop your problems.” At another point, Stern cautions Burkle, “You know the saying, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’?”

Not surprisingly, the Daily News sidebar on Stern’s employment at the Post makes it clear that Post Editor in Chief Col Allen is trying to distance the paper from Stern. According to the News, Allen said Stern, who edited the Page Six magazine and wrote the Nightcrawler column, a “freelance reporter who sometimes worked two days a week at The New York Post.”

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