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The swoosh of corporate influence

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Did you hear that Nike is in the news? I don't mean they simply made news, but that Nike is messing in the news. Worse, the "newsrooms" aren't even fighting back.

Start with a column that Stephanie Salter wrote last year for the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she offered a bare-knuckled assessment of Nike's global sweatshop practices. Tut-tut, said her editors, hold it right there! Not only do we advertise Nike products and stores, but the Big Swoosher is also a co-sponsor of our annual marathon. It would be "hypocritical" to run Salter's critical column, said the Chronicle's higher-ups. So they didn't, thereby subjugating journalism to advertising.

Next up: CBS television, presenter of the Winter Olympics. Or was it Nike bringing the games to us? Hard to tell, because Nike, a CBS sponsor, asked the network to have its reporters wear jackets that bore the company's ubiquitous swoosh. Amazingly, CBS agreed -- there was Harry Smith, Bill Geist and other "newsmen" plastered with a sponsor's logo, reducing them from reporter to corporate billboard.

Now, click the remote to NBC. If you watched the Super Bowl, you might have seen an NBC parody of Nike's new advertising slogan: "I can." The Nike ads depict young women declaring that sports allow them to break barriers. Good!

Of course, it's not mentioned that Nike's sports shoes are made by exploited girls in Asian sweatshops. NBC's spoof of the "I Can" ad was a promo for one of its sitcoms, but the global shoe giant wasn't laughing. Nike brass phoned NBC to say that the network's humorous commercials did not "reinforce" the company's message. And just like that the spoofs were off the air, surrendering artistry to advertising.

In the Brave New World of corporate journalism, Nike dictates what we see and read.


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