One News wasted more than four minutes of prime bulletin time last night on a shrill beat-up about a banned gambler receiving text messages from SkyCity “coaxing her back”.The messages, promoting $50,000 sweepstakes draws, were sent to the cellphone of Selina Watson, who had been barred from the casino after she and her husband gambled nearly $50 million, $5.5 million of which wasn’t theirs. The husband is now in prison for theft.
Reporter Lisa Owens breathlessly reported this as if the text message was a deliberate, nefarious act of enticement on the part of the casino when it seemed far more likely that Mrs Watson’s name had been included among the recipients as the result of a careless mistake. I mean, why would SkyCity issue a trespass notice to someone, then send them text messages inviting them back?Mrs Watson was said to be “appalled”. She was making a new life for herself, Owens declared indignantly (the journalist as advocate), and wanted nothing to do with the casino. “It brought everything right back again,” Mrs Watson whined.
We were clearly supposed to feel sorry for her. I didn’t. Anyone would think SkyCity had coerced her into gambling $50 million in the first place.What especially intrigued me was that we were repeatedly shown the text message received by Mrs Watson, at the bottom of which were the words: “Txt STOP to stop SKYCITY txts”. In other words, all Mrs Watson needed to do was send a one-word message back to SkyCity and she wouldn’t have been bothered again. End of story.
Instead she chose to have herself presented in the media as a helpless victim, a highly fashionable status these days, and in the process drew the nation’s attention to an episode in her past that most viewers would have been unaware of, and that most people in Mrs Watson’s position would probably prefer to conceal. I can’t help wondering why.I also can’t help wondering why a reporter, still less the TVNZ news editors, would have thought there was a story in it.
To complete the silliness, I see SkyCity has now apologised. So the cycle has been completed and television’s appetite for fake morality tales has once again been satisfied.