Fear & Loathing in the Newsroom

Last summer, had anyone dared utter that the DeBartolo family has had some curious associations with organized crime, Reno leaders would have boiled tar and feathers. The fat cats were then busily vacuuming the local jockocracy for $2.5 million to get the San Francisco 49ers to move their training camp to Reno.

About eight years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a major exposť on the DeBartolos. The story showed Eddie the Lesser's tribe up to their wealthy necks in Cleveland mobsters. Apparently the news media collectively forgot all about it during the 49ers' recent regionwide corporate welfare drives. Eddie, Jr., spent advertising megabucks to barely convince San Francisco taxpayers to back a new stadium and megamall.

I guess the fans will continue to adore the 'Niners and their locker room brothers no matter what an expensive and corrupting influence they may prove to be. Al Davis, California's second-biggest welfare queen, is currently tapping Oakland taxpayers for millions to make up for sports stadium red ink. Ripping off the populace is somehow perfectly respectable if perpetrated by businessmen in three-piece suits or team jackets.

Ken McCarthy established an entire website ( tracking the 49er campaign. He told me he hasn't seen a thing from that Chronicle piece in the seven years he's lived in the Bay Area. It certainly didn't see ink in Nevada as the small pond tadpoles sucked up to the big bay frogs. Indeed, the big worry here was that the NFL might be reluctant to become associated with (shush!) gambling.

"During the stadium election, they never even mentioned (DeBartolo's) involvement in the legal gambling industry," McCarthy says.

Given the recent revelations of Little Eddie's looming Louisiana gambling-related fraud indictment, that story may finally get revived. But will it make much difference? Increasingly, profit dictates the news you are allowed to see, or not see.

Which brings me to a feisty documentary entitled "Fear and Favor in the Newsroom," a show about censorship which is getting censored nationwide. Though narrated by Chicago hometown hero Studs Terkel, only intense pressure from Chicago Media Watch got WTTW to schedule it. A few labor union calls and an obscure writer just helped convince Reno's KNPB TV-5 to do so. (It will air at 9:00 p.m. on Feb. 20.) That makes just five markets to date.

The program painfully portrays corporate and government influence keeping you and me blissfully in the dark. If information is power, this show demonstrates how increasingly powerless the undermonied are becoming. Car dealers and Coca Cola influence the news you never see

One segment shows how major TV networks uniformly killed video of dead women and children during the Gulf War. We didn't want to believe pro-life George Bush, compliant Gen. Powell and huggy bear Stormin' Norman were really baby killers, did we? The war proved too popular for the truth.

Going through the motions like actual journalists, the major media dutifully presented both sides of the story: anti-war or support-the-troops. Apparently no one in the western world was pro-war during 1991, not even George Bush. The only warmongers were them ragheads who talked funny. And we sure showed them the consequences of being pro-war.

Dead workers don't count, either. "In all, there were more than a dozen American firms where (Guatemalan) workers attempting to organize unions were assassinated," noted TV news producer Allan Nairn says. "At the Coca-Cola plant, more than a dozen workers were assassinated," he states.

On the domestic front, the program points out how Atlanta-based Coke's influence has tainted corporate coverage at its hometown paper, the once-prestigious Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"Fear & Favor" reveals how the PBS News Hour softened a report about Nevada and California nuke dumping. Itdemonstrates how powerful the nuclear utility industry and the government can be when suppressing negative nuclear news. No less than the New York Times killed a major story about Long Island nuke power plant problems.

Not even Pulitzer Prize winners are immune. Sydney Schanberg of "Killing Fields" fame was fired from the Times for writing a column on New York City corruption. He later became one of a courageous few who sued to break the Pentagon's total control of Gulf War news. None of the major media reported it, let alone joined it.

In a segment reminiscent of several Nevada scandals, Fear & Favor tells of San Jose car dealers successfully pressuring the San Jose Mercury News.

You can preview audio and video of the program at Call and mail your friends far and wide to persuade their local PBS affiliates to air this important work.

Let program directors know you want the awful truth. For Las Vegas and Tucson, you can kill two birds with one stone by contacting or calling (520) 299-1866. KLVX TV-10 can be reached at 4210 Channel 10 Drive, Las Vegas NV, (702) 799-1010.

Be well. Raise hell.

FEAR AND FAVOR REDUX: Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-6-2015 Sparks Tribune


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano, a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 29-year Nevadan, is editor of U-News.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988. A condensed version of this column appeared in the 12-10-97 Reno News & Review.

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Copyright © 1982-2015 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 46-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
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