Wednesday, May 21, 2008

R-J Bafflingly Sucks Up To Criss Angel

Yesterday, tickets for Criss Angel's new Cirque show went on sale. That, evidently, is considered important news to the local media. I can't figure out on what journalistic planet that ought to be the case, but whatever.

The trouble is, Criss Angel stands accused by Norm Clarke of the R-J of having shoved and threatened him over his coverage. Several very credible eyewitnesses saw the incident. Angel has refused to answer questions about it, then whined to me on the carpet at the ACMAs the other day that people don't know the whole story.

Imagine, then, my surprise when the normally excellent Mike Weatherford ran this embarrassing puff piece on Angel and his ticket sales in yesterday's newspaper. There is nary a question, comment or no-comment in it about the most significant, most newsworthy relevance of Criss Angel at this point in time, his alleged threat to a journalist.

I asked Mike about this omission and here is his response, which was also sent to Richard Abowitz of the L.A. Times' Vegas blog when he, too, asked:

"This hasn't been actively discussed, but I think it has gone unsaid that since Norm and I mostly work independently already, I need to keep doing my thing (cover this show all the way through its opening) and let him do his. Besides, the interviews weren't one-on-one and there was a sense of the meter running in the presence of Kats and the AP on my side of the table, and the show's director and choreographer on the other, none of whom would probably appreciate the limited window of time sidetracked by Norm talk."

Wow. There are so many things wrong with this I can't get my head wrapped around them all. First, all journalists at all times are responsible for asking the most newsworthy questions. It doesn't matter if others are covering it and it doesn't matter if you're sharing access with other people.

And particular in this circumstance, why does Mike, Kats and the AP think they were invited to sit down with these people? Oh! That's right! To promote their forthcoming $100 million show. Something tells me they were going to sit right where they were as long as it took to give the journalists the promotional bits they wanted to get out there in the ether. They were using the journalists in no uncertain terms, but the journalists owe it to the public to ask the hard, uncomfortable questions and not just go along for the ride.

Think of the case of Martha Stewart thinking she'd get a free pass at the height of her tax-evasion scandals when she went on the CBS morning show and got badgered by the anchor during a food segment. Martha didn't get to decide what sorts of questions she answered or to merely focus on her salad just because she thinks that she picked a softball forum. And if she wouldn't answer the questions, then she didn't get to do her little self-promotional thing.

That this hasn't been "actively discussed" within the halls of the Review-Journal is even more shocking, although not surprising given the famous contempt for Clarke possessed by R-J Editor Thomas Mitchell. Violence and threats of violence against reporters are not small matters. They weren't back in the day when journalists were being threatened for covering the Mafia and they're not today when a star with thousands of rabid goth-crazed followers can cause serious harm that even the star himself doesn't intend.

It also does not matter if the subject matter is celebrity gossip nor the regard with which anyone holds journalist involved. (In this case, I happen to hold Norm Clarke in quite high regard because he's pretty much the only journalist in Las Vegas who actually credits others for stories they break. That's a level of uncommon integrity and generosity that deserves a great deal of respect.)

I do wonder, too, how such excellent reporters as Greenspun's John Katsilometes and whomever was sent by the Associated Press similarly fail to understand the gravity of the matter. Threats against journalists can cause a chilling impact on their comfort level in covering someone in the appropriate manner. It's a serious situation.

No self-respecting journalist ought to be asking Angel anything else until he at least responds to this situation and disavows any violence, suggested or otherwise, against journalists.


dave202 said...

Could it be that Norm may have been "exaggerating" or stretching the truth. I think you are over-reacting. Or that the reporters don't consider his "Normness" a credible reporter? And maybe they were just trying to do their jobs and report on the SHOW itself, not on the star? Just askin'!

Anonymous said...

I think you guys should have Norm on the show. I've been listening since the beginning, and I don't believe he's been a guest yet. It might be interesting to ask him not only about this episode, but about really anything Vegas-related since he's been around the town a while.

Anonymous said...

No 'self-respecting journalist' ought to be adding fire to the already scandalous paparazzi fueled culture where drug use or temper tantrums are more important "news" than launching a groundbreaking multi-million dollar project. Way to do your part to further drive today's celebrity-worship culture and act in complete disregard of actual journalistic integrity. I am not positve, but I don't believe that Norm is harping on this as much as you have. He seems to be over it, why aren't you? Is becoming a writer known more for their involvement in other people's feuds than your own work your goal?
To suggest that the alleged spat between artist and journalist is, as you put it, Angel's most newsworthy relevance is absurd. While not a fan of Criss Angel myself, there is a lot of money and energy that has been put into his new show. Even if you feel the need to perpetuate your negative 'journalism' style, is the first Cirque du Soleil show dependent on a "star" or the PETA conflict not in your mind newsworthy or relevant?
I just wish this blog would return to a forum of news from Las Vegas and not a place for Steve to pick fights in the name of journalistic standards.

mike_ch said...

There's pro wrestlers more legitimate than this guy. Leave the softball questions to the AP, they should have thrown this issue in their faces.

Like it not, The Powers That Be are going to have to face the music with this guy sooner or later. There's numerous reasons why taking him under their wing was a bad idea, but they seem to want all of the good (girls young enough to be his daughter who think he's hot) without any of the bad (the controversy that serves as fuel for people working the "be-seen" set.)

To give him his own little stage show in the evenings would have been one thing, but to sink $100 million into him was borderline crazy.

I've been down on Norm as this little drama plays out, but I guess I respect his writing but just feel it's in the wrong place. It's touristy writing in the front page of the local paper. I don't know, something about celebrity news put alongside elections and top stories seems wrong to me.

Anonymous said...

Norm has not harped on the matter because it would be unseemly for him to do so. But he is clearly unsettled by the incident, as seen by the fact that he's backed off on coverage of Angel in general.

Interesting how it's celeb-gossip-worship to delve into the very real issues of a violent threat made against a journalist but it's NOT celeb-worship to give Angel a pass and enable him by giving him the promotional crap disguised as "news" that he and his people want. Seems like the Angel worshippers want to have it both ways.


Troy from Las Vegas said...

"I think you guys should have Norm on the show. ... It might be interesting to ask him not only about this episode..."

I couldn't agree more.

My old friend Will Fowler, who was a rather famous reporter in Los Angeles in the 40s and 50s used to tell me that he and other reporters carried firearms. Just saying. :)

Anonymous said...

I recall Norm being on the show once. It was a short segment about where his TV ad was filmed, and he was in Boston (?) and calling in his answer live.
If all the journalists mentioned here worked at McDonald's, and a customer threatened a fellow employee, we'd be in total agreement that a bully customer needed to be confronted. So why is it different when six and seven figure salaries are involved? Does money really make someone above the law, even to journalists in Company Town Las Vegas? Jeff Leatherock

Troy from Las Vegas said...

True, Norm was on the show that time. I recall that as well. Good job in remembering.
I hold to it being nice to have him as a full on interview.

Anonymous said...

Without doubt you're right, Troy. Norm should be a top priority.
Jeff Leatherock

Mike said...

Your first mistake is actually considering Mike Weatherford a "journalist." His meaningless, unsubstantiated and sophomoric opinion has been poisoning potential concert-goers here in the Las Vegas area for too long.

Mike Weatherford is just another reason on the long list of why the R-J isn't worth what it catches in the birdcages it lines.

Anonymous said...

"the famous contempt for Clarke possessed by R-J Editor Thomas Mitchell"
Why does his editor hold him in contempt?
Makes you wonder, eh?

cinenaut said...

"... thousands of rabid goth-crazed followers can cause serious harm ..."

Oh come on, Steve, that line is ridiculous. Goth has nothing to do with a person's penchance to do harm.

-david in seattle, former/recovering goth