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  Apr 27, 2000



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Where are the competent journalists?
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a strange sound resonating throughout the Internet. It went something like this...

Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap!

What the heck was that, you say? Mike Awesome after five seconds in the Taz-Mission? Nope. A chiropractor re-aligning Jeff Hardy's spine? Wrong. Ernest Miller trying out some new dance steps? Nope. How about the sound a pencil makes against the side of Vince McMahon's head as he ponders a way out of a storyline that's even boring him to death? Wrong again.

It was the WWF and its marks hitting the panic button as hard and as fast as they possibly could.

Threatened by the re-launch of WCW, the unofficial WWF publicity machine cranked into overdrive. This even though it will take WCW the better part of a year to get their house in order so that they can stage any semblance of a challenge to the WWF's stranglehold on the ratings. By the "unofficial publicity" machine I mean SOME of the so-called "wrestling reporters" out there. People who haven't the first clue as to what a reporter's responsibilities are or how to conduct themselves appropriately. Professionalism and integrity are not words found in their vocabulary.

While I am on the topic, contrary to popular belief owning a computer and connection to the Net doesn't make you a reporter either. There's much more to it than that. You need some sort of schooling whether it's in a respected educational institution or indispensable on-the-job training where you learn from veterans in the field. Logging on, copying and pasting someone else's article word-for-word onto another site or newsboard requires no journalistic skills whatsoever. Nimby, the wonder-monkey, can do that. Well, almost.

Also, working for a federation and dispensing their carefully-edited version of the news isn't journalism. That's Public Relations work. PR people bury anything that tarnishes the company's image, put positive spins on negative situations to mold public perception (called "damage control") and hype what they are instructed to hype. That's why you won't find any hard-hitting information on any of the official federation sites. Their so-called "reporters" are employed by the company therefore they have no objectivity, no independent news judgement and as a result, their credibility is less than zero.

That brings us back to the matter at hand. Objectivity. It's the cornerstone of journalism. Reporters are supposed to be unbiased as they disseminate the news except when writing reviews or editorials which should contain personal opinion and educated commentary. Total objectivity is a crock though. The words that are chosen to express ideas, the facts that are left in or out and the very angle a story is built around can be influenced by personal bias. The key for any good journalist is to recognize their deep-seated prejudices and to work through them so that they don't taint the news-gathering process. To go into any situation with an open-mind by putting away your preconceived notions.

For example, I detest rap music. I don't have anything against it or those who enjoy. It's just I am a metal-head through and through. However, if I were assigned to cover a rap concert, you'd bet that I would be fair in my assessment. I would put aside my musical preferences for the time being gauging the show on the quality of the presentation, the reaction of the crowd and how much effort the performers put forth. The old adage "giving credit where credit is due" comes to mind.

I don't see that approach in many of the daily wrestling reports I read. In fact, I will go on record as saying that there is a pervasive bias towards the WWF across the board. Doubt me? All you have to do is closely examine the kind of information (or lack there of) being given. Think about it? When's the last time you read Pro Wrestling Torch editor, Wade Keller, gleefully pick apart Raw or Smackdown! in his End Notes column? Next to never. It's always Nitro that gets his attention on that special back page editorial. Not that Nitro doesn't deserve criticism. Sure it does. To his credit, Keller does run a credible publication -- one of the best sheets in the biz -- and he does review Raw and Smackdown! too. Though in my opinion, it is never with the same critical eye. Is Keller pulling back his punches? You be the judge.

What about some of the daily news updates posted on WrestleBoard, a great source for hot tips. One report during WCW's first week back called wrestling fans "traitors" for taking a gander at the revamped Nitro. I took personal offence at that statement because the writer suggested there are "sides" that need to be established. A grade school "Us versus Them" mentality. How stupid. For a purely selfish reason, I want every federation to do well so I can have even more excellent wrestling broadcasts to watch.

Then, there was the wise guy who actually sat there and kept track of the number of "offensive" words that were used on the Spring Stampede pay-per-view in his report. Funny. I've never seen him do a running count of how many are found on Raw, SmackDown! or ECW On TNN. So, what's the big deal? As you can tell, he had a hidden agenda he wanted to push.

What's more important is what people leave in and what they leave out. Net reporters have written frantic updates on how some WCW wrestlers were allegedly frolicking with near-naked college coeds at WCW's Spring Breakout 2000 yet they don't harp on where the Godfather gets his ho's from, how the WWF divas are used or more realistically where some wrestlers spend their "down time" while on the road.

They rightfully report on Vince Russo's inappropriate comments and the racial discrimination suit pending against WCW though they neglect to mention the dumbing-down of Eddie Guerrero in the WWF, what the Godfather's gimmick implies or how Kaitentai is portrayed. Again, they single out Russo's remarks about Jim Ross. Fair enough. What about the WWF's use of Billionaire Ted and the Nacho Man? They applaud Vince McMahon's comments on drug testing to the Associated Press last week yet they fail to mention the steroid scandal that rocked the WWF years ago to give some perspective on his stand.

The list goes on and on and...

What's the moral of this story? That WCW is unjustly brutalized by the wrestling media at large? Hardly. The criticisms are largely warranted. What has gotten lost in the shuffle is a sense of impartiality. To be a competent journalist, you should report the good with the bad not just whatever supports your view of the world. If you don't, you are doing your readers a disservice. You aren't a news-gather any more. You are a propagandist. An unpaid federation mouthpiece whom no one really trusts. And, without that sacred bond of trust between you and your readers, your words are falling on deaf ears where they belong.

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