CBS Didn't Treat Super Dome Blackout Like News; Typical of the Relationship Between Media and Power

Those in power often face only softballs


At the New York Daily News, sports media columnist Bob Raissman rightly lambasts CBS Sports' coverage of the blackout that occurred at the Super Dome during last night's Super Bowl:

Viewers were left with unanswered questions as CBS Sports' sideline reporters, and the rest of the cast, failed to go into a reporting mode.

There was no outrage, no questioning how a thing like this could happen on the NFL's biggest night of the year.

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. "As soon as they know (what knocked the power out) someone (from the NFL) is going to come down and we are going to interview them to ascertain what knocked out the power," said Solomon Wilcots, one of CBS' sideline reporters.

"Swallowing the scraps gladly" actually makes for a great description of how the mainstream media's relationship to political power looks. For example, via the Washington Post:

When a reporter gets something wrong or is perceived as being too aggressive, the response is often swift and sometimes at top volume, reporters say.

"They shoot first and ask questions later," said Julie Mason, who has reported on the George W. Bush and Obama White Houses for the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Examiner and Politico. In one of the e-mails that reporters have dubbed "nastygrams," White House press secretary Jay Carney branded one of Mason's stories "partisan, inflammatory and tendentious." National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, reacting to comments Mason made in a TV discussion, sent her an e-mail that included an animated picture of a crying mime — a visual suggestion that she was whining.

And so the media often relies on using kid gloves to retain coveted access to those in power, rather than press for more substance and risk those relationships. See: CBS 60 Minutes interview of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton