Friday, September 01, 2006

Out of Body, Out of Mind

Like a band of Iraqi insurgents, the Iowa City Press-Citizen continues its unrelenting attack on the sensibilities of eastern Iowans this morning (September 1) with yet one more over-the-top promotional effort to have us leave more of our money -- otherwise available for meaningful investment -- on the tables down by the Riverside (casino).

In case you've missed the paper's assessment of the joys of gambling in an eight-page special supplement, the cover and center spread of the weekend "GO" section, and numerous other articles, we're reminded once again today with words and phrases like "bubbled with excitement," "'it's fantastic,'" "'better than Las Vegas,'" "'the most wonderful thing to bring to Eastern Iowa,'" "revitalize the small town [of Riverside, population 922]," "'fabulous,'" "'everything is first class,'" "'absolutely gorgeous,'" "'a phenomenal resort for Iowa,'" "'a Nevada casino at its finest,'" "'it's beautiful,'" "'just a wonderful place to come,'" and "'this is awesome.'"

That's a lot of praise to plug into a 631-word story.

Moreover, owner Dan Kehl outdid himself:

"'I'm so excited this night is finally here,' chief executive officer Dan Kehl said. 'It feels surreal ... like one of those out-of-body experiences.'
. . .
"'It's like a great big family reunion,' he said.

" . . . Kehl led a toast . . . 'May the work that you do be the play that you love.'"

And, of course, although there was a dramatic description of a woman who won something from a slot machine there were no references to losses.

[In fairness to the reporter, Rachel Gallegos, a couple points should be noted. She has demonstrated her professional skills at balanced reporting, see Nicholas Johnson, "Gallegos Wins Casino Preview Coverage Comparison," August 30, 2006. And a newspaper story with her byline represents a good deal more than what she might write as a personal entry in a blog. The Press-Citizen is owned by Gannett, an enormous multi-media conglomerate which owns, among other things, one of, if not the, largest newspaper chains in the country. The paper has a publisher, a managing editor, an assignment editor, and others involved in the editorial process. It is, after all, a business, with an advertising department. So it's impossible for us to know what she was told to write, what she did, in fact, write that was edited out, and so forth.]

Rachel Gallegos, "Guests Toast Casino; Gambling Begins in Riverside,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 1, 2006.

The paper's only salvation is that -- like the thoughtful editorial the day of the eight-page casino promotion -- today's editorial page contains an op ed by Jim Walters, "Casinos Are For Losers," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 1, 2006, pointing up the downside of a casino in Riverside.

I have presented the news story and the op ed in parallel columns to dramatize the differences between them.

The double irony is that Walters is writing, in part, about the disparity between some newspapers' news coverage and their editorial positions -- during a morning when that disparity is on display once again with his commentary and Gallegos' story.

The reason it's a double irony is that the paper Walters chooses to talk about is the Wall Street Journal. But the Journal's disparity is precisely the opposite of what we find in the Press-Citizen's promotion of gambling. The Journal's editorials are, sometimes, promotional of right-wing, ideological, Republican, partisan, positions -- without much of a nod to even data and evidence, let alone opinion, on the other side. Their news stories, and investigative journalism, on the other hand are widely considered to be some of the best journalism in the country.

When it comes to all the thorny complications in the pros and cons surrounding gambling in Iowa, the Press-Citizen is precisely the opposite of the Wall Street Journal. We get the unabashed promotion of the joys and blessings of gambling in the news stories and have to turn to the opinion page to get a balanced presentation of the issues.

You're on to something Jim Walters.

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