Media outlet ambushes guest… again.

I’ve never walked off the set of a TV show in disgust before, but this week I did. There’s a first time for everything, I guess. I was in the studio for a live-to-tape session of the Donny Deutsch show on CNBC, “The Big Idea” on Tuesday morning this week. After enduring it for about 10 or 15 minutes it was clear that the whole situation had been a set-up from outset.

I know a few of you saw the show (as you’ve messaged me with your support) but I thought it might be interesting to shed some light on the background and highlight a problem that we all share as gamers; that of total ignorance on the subject of videogames from “big” media. Deutsch comes from the Michael Moore school of “journalism.” He has a point he wants to make, and isn’t particularly interested in anything that might contradict that point. It’s his show, after all. His website points out that the show is “smart, sexy, hip, and irreverent television.” The description also says that the show is “provocative, spontaneous, and real.” We’ll come back to that.

The show’s director originally contacted me on Monday this week. I was told that Deutsch would be talking about videogames, and they wanted someone from the gaming media to talk about a bunch of things. The subjects listed to me ran the gamut from “the future of videogames” to “online clans and community.” I was told that the violence thing might come up, in light of the recent 25-to-Life exposure, to which my response was a dismissive “that’s been done to death, it’s boring.” The director simply asked me if I would “just say that on air.”

When I arrived at the studio, and after being caked in layers of makeup, I sat down in front of the camera and soon learned that the entire show was about violence. It kicked off with Donny holding up a copy of Computer Games magazine declaring that there wasn’t a single game in there that wasn’t violent, and they then immediately cut to scenes of CJ stamping on a girl until she bled over the pavement in San Andreas. I was introduced as pretty much the bad guy who thinks this doesn’t have an effect on kids, and…well…things just deteriorated from there. I tried to discuss the ratings system, I tried to talk about how the majority of games are sold at Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy, and how they all take the ratings system very seriously…but this isn’t what the show was supposed to be about. Donny had an agenda. “All games are violent” was his proclamation, and nothing was going to sway him. We weren’t here to test a hypothesis. While this was happening, the director kept nagging me through the earpiece to “jump in and talk about what you’re here to talk about.” I was pissed. “That’s not what the show appears to be about, darling.”

*sigh* I hate when people do that. Seriously.

I actually know someone who got the same treatment from The Jenny Jones Show. He and his then-gf were invited to be on an episode where they were allegedly going to talk about couples who met over the internet. When they got there, they found to their shock that the episode was actually a hatchet job about older men who prey on underage girls on the net. (It’s a long story; in my acquaintance’s defense, the girl had lied to him about her age and even had a fake ID when they met for the first time.) He should have just walked off the show like John Davison did in my opinion, but then he was afraid that the show wouldn’t pay to send him home, as he didn’t have the money for airfare back. Still, that is extremely dirty and underhanded, and in my opinion completely undermines the message of the person hosting the show once the truth comes out.

What made the whole thing even sadder in Davison’s case was that one of the people they brought on was Brooks Brown, who had attended Columbine High School and was an acquaintance of Klebold and Harris. In fact, he had warned police a YEAR before the shooting that Harris had threatened him and was building pipe bombs. Brown was also arguing that violence in video games wasn’t the huge problem it was made out to be, and he and his parents also got railroaded. (Brown’s comments on the show are in the link above in the comments.)

Like I said, this kind of treatment of guests is dishonorable and counterproductive. Granted, while being the senior editor at MK Online is hardly the best example of professional journalism, I always took the attitude that the primary responsibility of being a journalist is to tell the truth. You’re supposed to be a reliable and accurate source of information, and if you cannot be honest with your sources and your audience, then you have failed in your task. Such dishonesty will only damn you in the long run, and I speak from experience.