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Skiing Dowhill At The Olympics of Distraction

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By Danny Schechter

Los Angeles: Olympics live for Heroes and Sheroes--the "amateur" athlete winners that TV sportscasters swoon over,  and companies later reward with lucrative endorsement contracts that, in turn,  push them in the celebrity elite, often with enough staying power to move effortlessly from competition to commentary.

This year, in Sochi, America's sweetheart is an 18 year old teenager with doting and photogenic parents who has won hearts as she slalomed to Olympic Gold.

It helps that Mikaela Shiffin is attractive and articulate, self-deprecating in an aw-shucks adolescent manner, and yet a model of iron discipline on the slopes. 

It was clear from her fawning video profile that she was destined to be the "got it' girl on her way to the glory of a gold.

Shiffin has a way with words as well as skills. She was upbeat and catchy in conversation with reporters, who, then, couldn't say enough good things about her unaffected style.

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"There I was, I'm like, 'Grrreat. I'm just going to go win my first medal," Mikaela enthused while the PR kept coming with non-stop florid descriptions and tributes to her "impressive balance and agilty," as she raced downhill.

NBC couldn't get enough of her heroic alpine antics, even as the network which has never missed a Star Spangled medal ceremony to dwell on, seemed less interested in covering events "next door" in Ukraine or, closer to home, by fully exploring the buy out of Time Warner Cable by its  own parent company, Comcast, that it also couldn't be more adoring towards.

The FAIR Blog feature a snapshot of their "coverage" on the Morning Joe Show on MSNBC: " The February 13 broadcast of Morning Joe featured both sides--meaning the CEO of Comcast and the CEO of Time Warner Cable.

The news segment was more PR than journalism, with hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough offering up softballs. Scarborough actually prefaced one question by saying, "It'll sound like a softball question"; his question to Comcast's Brian Roberts was, '"Comcast seems to be doing everything right over the past four or five years." Brzezinski closed the segment by congratulating the CEOs."

Scarborough later explained: "We get our paychecks from Comcast. Obviously we're not sort of cool and detached from this news."

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To my surprise, after weeks of airing hot rumor after rumor about what was being pictured as an inevitable apocalypse on the Russian Riviera, especially terrorist threats in Sochi and every complaint by any journalist whose toilets didn't flush in a luxury hotel, NBC had something nice to say in prime time on Friday night about the Russian hosts of the games.

Suddenly, it was about face time with the management of the games and the security praised for a job well done with plaudits for the hospitality of the Russkies and the good vibes all around. Suddenly, the description of a gulag softened into allusions to a borsht belt.

Perennial NBC Olympic host Bob Costas was downright complimentary, but this thaw in the new cold war between the US and Russia didn't last more than a few minutes.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at See

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NBC's coverage of the Olympics blows and Bob Costa... by intotheabyss on Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 10:23:54 AM
The Sochi Olympics were very successful and a feat... by Archie on Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 10:40:04 AM
Thanks for this piece, Danny! It is worth rememb... by Gary Corseri on Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 11:57:57 PM