Newswatch - Keeping the Media in Check

by Michael I. Niman
Buffalo Beat, February 22, 01


     Media-wise the new XFL football Aleague@ presents a new twist, not only blurring the lines between reality and fantasy or sports and soaps, but between media and mediated.  NBC, you see, not only covers XFL games C it creates them.  In an unprecedented move, NBC invested $50 million, partnering with wrestling=s Vince McMahon as co-owner of the XFL. 

    Unlike the NFL where networks competitively bid for the right to air games, NBC will always own the rights to XFL games.  Unlike real football, which predates TV and evolved into a televised sport, the XFL is designed specifically for the small screen.  If ratings falter, NBC has the power to tweak the game by changing the rules or the uniforms or the players in an effort to titillate the audience. 

   Furthermore, the NBC/McMahon partnership owns all of the XFL teams.  Competition is staged.  XFL management can move players from team to team to make the competition even or lopsided C whatever it takes to excite focus groups and entertain audiences.  Viewers need to find something better to do with their Saturday nights.  Life is only so long.

 Al Vaughters Still In The Dark

     On the local news scene, Ainvestigative reporter@ Al Vaughters took to the tube to warn us about the dangers of burned out auto headlights.  According to Vaughters= Ainvestigation,@ dirty or missing headlights can impair night vision.  In fact, he explains, if one headlight [out of two] is missing, it can reduce visibility on a dark night by 50%.  Wow, who=d have guessed?  During the previous week Vaughters was on assignment following a recycling truck as it went about its rounds.   Perhaps Vaughters just needs some leads - call him at WIVB.  For a quick refresher on the concept of investigative reporting I suggest he hit a library and thumb through a few old copies of The Nation, Mother Jones, Multinational Monitor, Covert Action Information Quarterly, Counterpunch or The Progressive.  I=d also suggest The Reporters Handbook: An Investigator=s Guide to Documents and Techniques and perhaps a visit to the Center for Investigative Journalism=s website. 

 Ted Koppel on a Short Lease

     Ted Koppel recently dedicated a Nightline program to explore how the networks botched election night.  In discussing election night and the congressional probe of the election night calls, Koppel asked, AWhat can we do to avoid a repeat [of the presidential miscall fiasco].@  Neither Ted, nor any of his guests, nor the local Eyewitness News team discussing the same issue a half hour earlier suggested the obvious:  Don=t put close relatives of presidential candidates in charge of network news decision desks on election night.  It was, after all, George= Bush=s first cousin, John Ellis, who declared him the winner for Fox News.  The other networks all followed suit (see Buffalo Beat December 14th 2000) during the next few minutes.  Ellis= name never came up during the Nightline program.

Kuwaiti Public Radio

     And finally, National Public Radio (NPR) sunk to new depths on February 15th, when the usual Archer Daniels Midland ad was replaced with an announcement that Asupport for NPR [news] comes from the State of Kuwait in honor of the 10th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait...@  I never knew Kuwait was liberated.  Bush Senior=s Gulf war threw the Iraqis out of Kuwait but most Kuwaitis today still lack citizenship, women lack basic rights, the Royal family rules with an iron hand, and so on.  Don=t expect balanced coverage from NPR as George W gears up for round two in the Gulf.  Stay tuned.


Please sent comments to

Return to

Return to Index of Articles