Much is being made about the Barack Obama merchandise on sale at the NBC Experience store in Manhattan and on the store’s Web site. So we decided to head up to 30 Rock to see what the fuss was all about.
First the backstory.
Last week, Joe Luppino-Esposito, a blogger who calls himself ‘Newark Young Conservative Examiner’ wrote about how the retail store at NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters has been selling the merchandise.
Earlier this week, Maxim Lott of FoxNews.com started asking around about the ethics of a company that owns a national news network and cable news channel selling merchandise featuring the president.
Lott reveals the CBS and ABC online stores sell books about the president but no merchandise, while Fox and CNN do not sell books or other memorabilia.
And while it may be smart business, journalism professors and ethicists think it crosses the line.
“The [NBC] site seems like a campaign stop for those following their messiah…The appearance that NBC isn’t reporting the news with fairness, balance and impartiality — but is instead cheerleading — is apparent,” says DePaul University journalism professor Bruce Evensen.
“I would agree that it is problematic when you have an entity that has a news division to appear to be taking a partisan line, says Jane Kirtley, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for Media Ethics and Law. “To me, whatever money they’re making off of this, it’s not worth it,” she said.
We headed over to the NBC Experience Tuesday afternoon and found the Obama merchandise is still on display — two styles of t-shirts, coffee mugs, Barack and Michelle magnets, the Barack action figure (seriously) and the NBC News “Yes We Can” video of the campaign and election. But in the 15 minutes or so we spent hovering, no one seemed interested in the merchandise. They were more apt to shake a “Psych” snowglobe or handle the ginormous “Law & Order” coffee mugs nearby. The display is small, about the same amount of space given to PGA Tour merchandise and it’s nowhere near the amount of space given to the FOX series “House” which is produced by NBC Universal Television.
We wanted to ask NBC if they plan on keeping the display in the store and whether they’ve been feeling any pressure to remove it. But our calls, which we started making early yesterday afternoon, have not been returned.