Monday, August 28, 2006

Press-Citizen: Promoting Casino Gambling?

There are four categories of comments to be made about today's (August 28) eight-page supplement in the Iowa City Press-Citizen regarding the casino, "Shuffle Up and Play," Iowa City Press-Citizen (special supplement), August 28, 2006.

1. The excessive promotional hype of a commercial venture; indeed, a venture which, until America and Iowa's more recent history, was long considered illegal, and which continues to have a number of adverse social, economic, criminal and poliical impacts upon the state.

2. The specific promotional aspects of the supplement.

3. Concerns that there may be some tie-in, some deferred payment, between this supplement and subsequent casino advertising in the Press-Citizen.

4. The quality of the journalism in the news stories run within the supplement.

5. The editorial.

5. To dispose of the last issues first, the editorial stands apart from the supplement. It is lengthy, factual, thoughtful, balanced and mature. It sets forth the reasons why the paper has opposed the Riverside casino, but realistically concludes, since it is here, let's try to minimize its damage and maximize its potential contribution to the local area's economic development.

4. The journalistic content of the supplement represents something of a tour-de-force by two young, recent journalism school graduates, who have yet to complete their first year with the Press-Citizen: Brian Morelli and Rachel Gallegos. I count nine stories by Ms. Gallegos and six by Mr. Morelli. One can pick at what they've done. But given that the promotion of the supplement, and much of its content (for which I'm guessing they were not responsible) was an unabashed, all-out promotional effort for the casino, one can forgive them (and their editors) for not making the pieces more hard hitting in their criticism of gambling in general and the Riverside casino in particular. In fact, I think they're entitled to credit for bringing as much balance as they have to their writing. One might question a headline like, "Student Addiction Not a Big Worry" (with a story to support the headline), but it is balanced to some degree when one turns the page and finds, "Experts Worry About Addictions."

1. The entire top half of the paper's page one is devoted to a dramatic graphic, complete with red headlines and rolling dice, promoting a special eight-page suplement essentially promoting the casino! "Get ready to place your bets" it screams. "The Press-Citizen has all the information you need before you play your first hand of Texas Hold 'Em" -- which, need it be noted, is already a popular draw for college students, whether online or on campus, and now soon to be (with the Press-Citizen's help) on the tables of the Riverside casino. "Learn to play the games at the casino." "A two-page graphic shows you where everything is at the casino".

It follows the past week's promotion that the supplement was coming. See, in this connection, the blog entry a week ago raising a number of issues regarding this supplement, Nicholas Johnson, "Coming P-C Casino Spread: Another Frosty?" August 22, 2006.

To put the supplement in context, when was the last time the paper devoted an eight-page supplement to a new academic building, its layout, and how to make the best grades in the courses that will be offered there?

2. The cover of the supplement contains a graphic of two, very large dice, along with, in a very large font, the title: "Shuffle Up and Play." The word "Advertisement" is nowhere to be found anywhere in the eight pages. I guess that's because the Press-Citizen is trying to tell us that this supplement represents its best news judgment regarding the casino.

OK. But then why is so much of it a how-to manual that, if anything, glamorizes the casino's gambling offerings? Each page contains instructions on yet another opportunity to win big: "Texas Hold 'Em Poker," "Craps," "Slot Machines," "Roulette" and "Blackjack."

Oh, except for two pages: the two-page spread headlined "Rolling in Riverside," which provides a detailed map and guide to every feature of the 350,000 square foot facility.

3. There's no way to know what money may have changed hands, or is promised for the future, from the casino to the paper. Hopefully none. We'll just have to watch the Press-Citizen's ads as the casino's opening is underway.

# # #

Meanwhile, a real mystery: You may have noticed I have no links to any of the content of this supplement. That's because none of it is even hinted at, let alone linked to, from the Press-Citizen's online site (at least as of 8:00 or so Monday morning, August 28). If and when it ever is, you'll be able to get to it with the links I'll provide. Could it be that the supplement is considered "advertising" within the Press-Citizen's server and thus not something normally reproduced online?

And, speaking of advertising, why, at the bottom of the Press-Citizen's opening online page, do we find paid links to advertising for . . . Las Vegas! Check it out at http://www.press-citizen.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage. At the bottom of that page, under "Advertising Links," along with flowers and "true religion jeans" are links to "Las Vegas Bachelorette Party," "Best of Las Vegas," "Discount Las Vegas Hotels," and "Discount Las Vegas Shows." These are not exactly local merchants -- or are they? Could it be that, somewhere within those links, the answer is to be found as to where the mortgage money for this "Iowa casino" has come from?

[Some of this blog entry is taken from this morning's Monday, August 28, update to the rain forest Web site: http://www.nicholasjohnson.org/politics/IaChild.]




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Nick said...

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