While everyone’s focused on whether Paris Hilton is going to make a break for the airport in a white Bronco, there’s real news going on out there. For instance, it turns out that CNN routinely pays for access to newsmakers. So says a former former CNN correspondent.

For months, Jeff Koinange had been dogged by allegations that in February, he paid off gunmen to put on a show for a story about Nigerian resistance.

The accusations from Nigerian government officials were so strong that CNN gave a denial during a February broadcast.

“CNN did not pay for or stage any part of the report,” anchor John Roberts said. “CNN does not pay for interviews.”

But a Swiss author – in an e-mail to Koinange’s boss, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton – details a months-long romance with Koinange, and quotes the correspondent as saying he traded cash for the story.

“Of course I had to pay certain people to get the story,” Koinange says, according to the e-mail.

“But everything was done in agreement with CNN and in accordance with their usual standards. But you do not get such a story without bribing . . . You have to have financial resources. But at the end, it was worth it. CNN has its story and I have my ‘fame.’ “

Look at that last paragraph again. “…everything was done in agreement with CNN and in accordance with their usual standards.”

Is that how things work at CNN? They cover for bloody dictators. They make up stories to smear the US military. And they bribe people to get stories.

Maybe CNN should change its name to the Corrupt News Network.

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