Monday, February 04, 2013

'CBS' Used to Be Followed by 'News'


When the lights unaccountably went out at the preposterously named Mercedes-Benz Superdome last night during the biggest sports event of the year,  you might have thought that CBS, broadcasting the game, would have made at least a minimal effort to address for viewers what had just happened.

You would have been wrong. Instead, in a shocking example of journalistic malfeasance, the CBS Sports flunkies on site (and the CBS News people on site or in New York) at first punted in panic  and went to commercial, and then took the position that, well, we'll wait till the NFL suits tell us what to say before we explain anything. What had happened? What was happening in the stands, where tens of thousands of spectators were in the dark in more ways than one?

Broadcast sports journalism has long been mostly a bad joke, with print sports journalism not far behind. Witness the weak response to this remarkable event this morning among our vaunted sportswriters, a breed that I once respected in general but now associate with one phrase: "When're they going to bring out more free shrimp?"

There were some exceptions, like Bob Raissman in today's New York Daily News:

"At a time when they should have been aggressively gathering news, CBS’ crew was satisfied with the crumbs the NFL dropped on them. And they swallowed the scraps gladly. Not once during the 34-minute delay did a representative of the National Football League appear on camera to attempt to explain what caused half the Superdome to lose power.

Why should they? No one from CBS put any pressure on them.

Instead of having anyone with a microphone express a hint of outrage, they accepted what was going down. ..."

Yes they did, like the house stooges they actually are.

But where was CBS News, which presumably had at least one news reporter there among the 5,000 media hacks sent to New Orleans, many by news organizations that otherwise wouldn't cover the Second Coming if it required paying for a flight and a hotel room?

As the blackout stretched on, what were they doing at CBS News headquarters in New York? Did it not occur to those descendants of Walter Cronkite to perhaps elbow their way onto the air, you know, like in the old days, with a brief news report that at least indicated that something very unusual had happened, and questions were being asked?

If it did, there was no sign of it last night. No, the attitude was clearly: We'll wait till we're told what to say.

This, from Will Leitch at, is worth reading on the subject.

Also, while we're on the subject of lackey reporting, when might it occur to the media that the real advertising story last night wasn't who had the best or worst ad (the perennial narrative), but rather, why couldn't CBS sell advertising time?  I wasn't counting, but it seemed to me that most of the ads aired last night during the Super Bowl (with the exception of the cheap local ads slotted in during the regular segments where the local TV stations get their allotted time)  were non-revenue CBS house-ads -- promos for CBS shows -- and barter-deal promos for the NFL.

That might be a story, it seems to me. That is, if any actual journalists were covering this, rather than just swooning over the content of the relatively few beer, car and junk-food ads that did actually air.

Meanwhile, it went unnoted by the NFL handmaidens who CBS trots out to broadcast the game, but hey, how about that murder suspect down there on the field?

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was described by a CBS stooge last night as "an extraordinary individual who has impacted sports and community."

Why yes, how true, how true.

That would underscore the recent incident after the Ravens beat the Broncos in postseason, when Ravens players jeered a USA Today reporter who had the temerity to ask the glowering Mr. Lewis about an unfortunate incident in which he, Lewis, was accused in a still-unsolved double murder. Inconveniences for Lewis in that 2000 murder case were that a victim's blood was found in his limo, where Lewis had instructed fellow passengers to keep their mouths shut about the incident.

"... Lewis pleaded guilty in relation to the case: for obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor. He originally was charged with two counts of murder but struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against two of his companions that night..."

That's from Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, who has some journalistic guts, and who had this to say about Mr. Lewis and his misadventure.
I'll provide a little more background on the Lewis case in a bit. But gotta go now! I see they're bringing out more free shrimp and king crab claws to the buffet table, and you know how the line forms, up in the press box.

[UPDATE: An angry anonymous commenter who claims to have some knowledge of CBS (shooting from ambush, the way all anonymous flamers do, of course) scoffs that I didn't do my homework, that CBS "sold" all of its ad slots for the Super Bowl. Right, just like USA Today "sells" 1.7 million copies a day, when in fact more than half are given away, with the numbers cooked through in-house barter deals. That fact is, most of the Super Bowl commercial air time -- a total of 47 minutes -- was devoted to house ads promoting CBS or affiliated shows ("sold" and accounted for in-house) or barter-deal promos for the NFL and affiliates. Media reporters noted weeks before the game ago that CBS said it had "sold" all of its ad slots for the Super Bowl-- but they didn't ask questions about to whom and under what circumstances. They didn't ask how many of those ads sold for the the real-cash price of $3.8 million for 30 seconds, which is what CBS was said to be charging. I guarantee you, financial analysts are asking the right questions, and they're not depending on CBS flacks for the answers.]



No comments: