Hyping a movie as “news”

On yesterday’s ESPN Sportscenter program, actor Owen Wilson was on the “Budweiser Hot Seat” segment. That’s right. Owen Wilson. So what’s his claim to sports fame? He’s the voice of one of the cars in the new Disney/Pixar animated movie “Cars,” which is about a NASCAR-like racing circuit. Actors are nothing new to the hot seat, but Disney owns ESPN, and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a more obvious example of self-serving hype on television. The questions were inane, and the poor ESPN anchor knew it. Wilson seemed distracted and bothered, and in no way gave an indication that he was even on the famous hot seat.

Normally, I wouldn’t care, but this is the kind of stuff that’s killing the whole public trust news business. Sports isn’t news, you say? Well, that’s true (why are sports highlights “news” when the aberrance of the lowlights better qualifies them?), but Sportscenter is billed as a news program, and I’d wager the audience thinks it’s a news program. Here Disney muddies the trust factor by inserting a disinterested actor into a spot usually reserved for people with something to say in an effort to promote a movie that opens this weekend.



  1. “a spot usually reserved for people with something to say…”

    …although I can’t remember a time when someone on the “Hot Seat” was asked about Human Growth Hormone, or really HAD anything to say.

  2. hmmm…kind of reminds me of when, just a short time ago, the Today show presented a segment on the movie United 93 as if it were something other than a propaganda film (remember that GE owns NBC.) There was little about the movie and lots of about how we are supposed to think about this particular event.

    Then again, most of the stuff that’s trotted out as news is more infotainment (remember that word?) than actual news. We can get culturally relativist and ask, “what, really IS news?” but that’s not going to help.

    Still, if you can’t define a concept, what’s to say that the concept can’t be manipulated by the most skillful?

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