In the Nov. 7 edition of Pullin’ No Punches, one of the topics I dove into was credible journalism. I stated that establishing credibility in the online world can be much more difficult than in the mainstream media.
However, if what I’ve seen recently is an example of mainstream media – I take it all back.
Recently, CNN aired a special entitled “Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling.” If you caught the show, there actually were some decent parts to it. For instance, the WWE holding up CM Punk’s “straight-edge” lifestyle was certainly applicable.
What I cannot stand as a journalist, especially one who does harp on credibility, is the spin that was given to John Cena’s answer to the question, “Have you ever used steroids?”
When CNN aired his answer, even the narrator’s intro of Cena made him appear guilty before the former WWE Champ even spoke. “He doesn’t like being asked about steroids,” the man said leading into Cena’s response.
If you haven’t watched it yet, either on CNN or WWE.com, here is the portion of Cena’s response that aired:
This is a crazy question. And it’s something that, um, it’s tough to answer just because of the way society is now. The way people conceive things because performance-enhancing drugs have got the spotlight and it’s a hot thing to talk about. I can’t tell you that I haven’t, but you’ll never be able to prove that I have.
The way CNN aired this, it not only makes Cena look as though he’s being evasive but also as though he’s giving a vague admission of guilt. Listening to his entire response, however, paints a much different picture.
Here’s a transcript of the much-more detailed exchange between CNN’s reporter and Cena and you can immediately tell the difference in how his answer would be perceived by the general public.
CNN: I think WWE is under the microscope right now.
Cena: Of course, as is all of sports.
CNN: A lot of talk about steroid use.
CNN: Drug use. Have you ever used steroids?
Cena: Absolutely not. And this is a â<80>¦
CNN: Even back in body building days? Football days?
Cena: This is a crazy question. And it’s something that um, it’s tough to answer just because of the way society is now. The way people conceive things because performance-enhancing drugs have got the spotlight and it’s a hot thing to talk about.
Anytime you see any athlete in any athletic venture – could be the PGA Tour – achieve physical greatness, something that is beyond the norm even for a top-tier athlete â<80>¦ If top-tier athletes are rushing for 1,000 yards and somebody comes out and starts running people over and rushing for 2,000 – it’s not athletic achievement any more and that’s something that really gets me. It’s “he or she is on performance-enhancing drugs.”
And it’s only because that certain athletes have gotten themselves into certain situations where automatically the finger is pointed at somebody. “Oh, they’re on performance-enhancing drugs.”
And I can take a million tests, I’ve been tested for drugs since I was 17 years old. I can take a million tests, I can pass every one of them. As soon as I pass it, there’s some other guy on the other end going “Oh there’s masking agents. There’s this, there’s that.” I know the arguments because I’ve been in the situation.
This is a subject that’s very very near and dear to me only because since I was a very small child I’ve worked my ass off to get to where I’m at. And it sucks to be able to have to deal with people saying that I rely on a crutch.
You know, I wake up every day and I work myself to the bone because I love what I do. I got the best gig in the world, I love it. And it kills me to have to sit here and do this with one arm. Like I wanna be back out there. You hear stories about guys coming home from the war, and they’re in the infirmary, and all they want to do is get back in the field. I want to get back in the field. You know, it’s killing me.
But to have to deal with the popularity of a substance that enhances performance, it’s tough to take. I take great pride in the fact that I have a God-given gift of above-average natural strength. And I show it off whenever I can because to me that’s fun, that’s entertaining, it’s what I love to do.
Now, I have a co-worker who has been big on wrestling most of his life, and can talk circles around me when it comes to historical matches and such. He’s a very knowledgeable person whose opinion I respect – I even asked him to read my articles and give me his opinion on them.
But a brief discussion between he and I on this matter showed that depending on who you are, your opinion on this topic may vary greatly. You see, he’s quite down on the wrestling biz lately and feels that the most important point to him was he absolutely does not believe Cena. He says there’s no way wrestlers like him, HHH, even Vince McMahon have gotten as big as they are without juicing.
On that, I don’t know that I disagree with him. Looking at things from as unbiased a view as I can, I don’t know who has been “juicing” and who hasn’t. I don’t know who has just been blessed with superb genetics. I don’t know John Cena, just his on-air persona. I can’t tell you he’s telling the truth – and I certainly can’t accuse him of lying.
But to me, that’s not the most-important issue here.
The issue is CNN taking a response from a Superstar and cutting it to fit their needs. Taking an answer that begins with “Absolutely not” and twisting it to make Cena look guilty is not journalism. It’s sensationalism in the worst way and dishonest.
It was an act that made me ashamed to call myself a journalist.
I can, at least, feel content in the fact that there are responsible journalists out there – ones who report that facts as they find them without bias or agendas. I try very hard to count myself among them.
John Cena was a victim here, and his image has been tarnished in the public eye as a result. For that, Mr. Cena, I apologize on behalf of responsible journalists everywhere.
As for CNN – well, I already leaned toward a network that seems more “fair and balance” to me anyways, so don’t count on seeing your channel on my box any more.
Sean “O’Mac” McGuinney’s day job is as a newspaper editor. He has been a journalist for nearly 10 years and has covered everything from government to sports. The wrestling? Well, that’s just been enjoyed since he was a kid. Don’t ask how long ago that was.