Friday, October 23, 2009

Will Waltrip Draw Attention From The Chase?

In our constantly evolving media-driven world, the focus of national attention shifts seemingly by the second. Cable news networks one minute tell us that the H1N1 Virus is at crisis level, but then take two hours to watch a balloon float across the Midwest while Falcon hides in the attic.

Over the last several weeks, the mainstream media has become totally and completely bored with Jimmie Johnson and his Chase dominance. Even some NASCAR beat writers are having trouble figuring out what else there is to write about.

Well, enter Michael Waltrip. At first, the report of a fender-bender popped up on some NASCAR websites. Waltrip and a motorcycle had collided. Waltrip was not injured and the motorcyclist was slightly banged up. No big deal.

Then Terry Blount at ESPN put an article together with a headline that read "Waltrip Passes Field Sobriety Test." That ramped things up a notch and hinted that there were other pieces to the story. Blount reported Waltrip was tested and missed being arrested for driving under the influence by having a .06 blood-alcohol level. In North Carolina, the familiar .08 is the legal limit.

It was Charlotte's own WCNC-TV that took the story to the next level. Click here to read reporter Rad Berky's story. Here is a brief excerpt:

Mooresville police say alcohol was a factor in an accident Wednesday night involving NASCAR driver and team owner Michael Waltrip. The police report on the accident says Waltrip “was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.” He was given a field sobriety test and passed a “walk and turn” test and a “one leg stand” test. “He did not meet the criteria for the DWI, however it was indicated as a contributing factor…on the accident report,” said Captain Phil Blocker of the Mooresville Police.

The story was reported Thursday on ESPN's NASCAR Now as a news item and on SPEED's Race Hub by reporter Ralph Sheheen. Not sure who really wrote the words, but Sheheen said "This is Michael's second serious auto incident to make headlines since 2007. Stay tuned to SPEED for more over the weekend."

Waltrip has been associated with SPEED for a very long time. He has done countless TV shows, including the long-running Monday show now called This Week in NASCAR. Waltrip is a color analyst for the Camping World Truck Series and will be in the TV booth for the Friday practice session at 1PM.

When the media gets ahold of something like this, there are two ways it can go. One, the reality is reported, the person involved apologizes and life goes on.

Two, the media uses the Internet to ramp up the hype avoiding the reality and concentrating on sensationalism. That might mean suggesting all kinds of things that might have happened or may have possibly happened in the past. In the media's New World Order, there are plenty of folks willing to do just that.

The first test of this will come at 11AM when John Roberts hosts the NASCAR Live show from Martinsville, VA. Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler will be reporting and it may well be one of those two that interviews Waltrip. Perhaps a good strategy for Waltrip would be to get it all out on the table Friday before the remainder of the media arrives for the racing weekend.

Since we don't know where this story will go or how it will be treated, we are going to use this post to ask for your contributions. Tell us where and when you saw the Waltrip story and how it was treated. No need to post a link, just your comments will be good enough. We can all comment on SPEED and ESPN as they go through the day.

To add your media-related comments on this topic, just click the comments button below. This is a TV and media site. Your comments about Waltrip personally or professionally will be deleted. Our goal is to watch the media coverage unfold and provide a place to discuss it.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. We will update links on Friday morning about this story should they keep appearing. Thanks for helping us keep a media watch on this topic.