Pro wrestling star and bestselling author Mick Foley blogs today about his experiences in the media coverage of the Linda McMahon Senate campaign. Not surprisingly, Foley’s thoughts are well considered and well put. Go read “Whatever Happened to Research,” http://mickfoley.typepad.com/mickfoley/2010/09/that-time-i-metrachel-maddow.html, and then come back.
I said Foley was thoughtful and articulate. I didn’t say he was right. His complaints about the media are boilerplate, unspecific, and unfair. They’re also ironic coming from a professional in media manipulation.
Regarding Ray Hernandez of The New York Times, I agree with Foley that Hernandez turned out a poor piece – but for completely different reasons. As I said in my initial reaction blog, “New York Times Sets a New World Record: 2,300 Words on Linda McMahon – Not One of Them ‘Benoit’ or ‘Death’,” http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/new-york-times-sets-a-new-world-record-2300-words-on-linda-mcmahon-%E2%80%93-not-one-of-them-%E2%80%98benoit%E2%80%99-or-%E2%80%98death%E2%80%99/, I was flabbergasted that The Times would publish a piece with this particular slant, but do so only in vague code. (I later acknowledged that my disappointment in The Times here was too strong, and suggested that readers go to the more balanced review of the piece by Keith Harris of Cageside Seats.)
But, unlike Foley, I didn’t then and I don’t now presume to complain publicly about whom Hernandez chose to quote, and how. That is his business. For those following this blog, it should be obvious that political reporters, like everyone else, have agendas and pressures that only they can understand on deadline; it also should be obvious that voices like mine are driving coverage to a much greater extent that our mere quotient of quotes and sound bites would suggest.
Foley has the same problem in talking about the work of Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register: Foley talks about the process instead of the product. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem that Stannard had never heard of John Cena; rather, I think it’s to Stannard’s credit that he acknowledged to Foley that he didn’t understand the reference. That belies the headline of Foley’s post, as the point of the anecdote is precisely that the reporter was doing research. As they say, “He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child – teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool – shun him.”
Stannard’s story is very good and that’s all that’s important — not whether he came to it with a large base of preexisting knowledge.
Finally, I agree with Foley that it would be wrong for the Connecticut election to become a referendum on the wrestling industry’s taste or status. But a referendum on Linda McMahon’s accountability for a pandemic of industrial deaths on her watch? Jesus beezus, she’s running for high elective office based only on her experience as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Mick Foley and I might disagree on the level of Linda’s accountability, but in playing the self-pitying cultural populist, he’s trying to turn attention away from real life-and-death issues. And I don’t buy that attempt.
Call me if you want to talk more, Mick.