Baba Waters' sellout soup for the soul

December 04, 2000

Baba Waters' sellout soup for the soul

I was driving home from Taco Bell the other night when I heard a disturbing report involving Barbara Walters - one of the most esteemed interviewers of her generation - and her television show, "The View."

It came to light that Walters and "The View" had signed a deal with the Campbell Soup Co., by which she and her guests would "casually" mention Campbell's brand soups during the program in exchange for a large cash payment.

On one show, for example, co-host Meredith Vieira described how her daughter, Lily, "won't eat anything but Campbell's Mega Noodle."

"Didn't we grow up eating Campbell's soup?" Walters said.

And her co-hosts replied, "Mmm! Mmm! Good!"

What in the name of Microsoft is going on here? I've always been taught that in between journalists and advertisers there was supposed to be an ironclad wall. Like if one of the charming women from The Herald-Mail advertising department came over to the newsroom just to chat and then "casually" asked me to mention the SBC Corp. of San Antonio, Tex., in a good strong light because it would really help her account - well, you can bet one delicious Insider Pizza Hut pizza that I would instantly go on full red alert, slapping her paperwork to the ground and saying in a voice as loud and clear as an SBC wireless connection "Foul temptress! You care not for my clever wit and repartee! You only wish to promote SBC's great market-share growth potential!"


You can say a lot of things about me, but at least you know that I cannot be bought. I have a tough enough time keeping my own life under control to worry about "outside influences" seeping into my work.

For example, just the other night I was sitting at home paying my bills online, which I can do because of technology developed and almost exclusively licensed through the CheckFree Holdings Corp. of Atlanta, Ga., and I thought to myself: If I were Barbara Walters, I should not be able to live with myself.

How can we ever trust her again, never knowing whether she herself believes in what she is saying or is just "shilling" for some soulless piece of corporate trash? Obviously, some stalwart companies, like say, Ford or Intel, undeniably have the public's and the community's best interests at heart, but you can be sure they are in the minority.

Most corporate monsters would fry you like a jolt of clean and economical electricity from one of Duke Power's generators.

Now I can hear you saying "Tim, don't blame the corporations, they are just doing all they can for their shareholders," and maybe that's true. But I think they bear a little responsibility, like Home Depot bears the responsibility of training its customer service representatives to be the most consumer-friendly in the business, to come clean and at least tell us when they have a deal for plugs on a variety show.

Maybe Barbara Walters is going to sit there in her next show and tell you that she thought "The Grinch" was a great movie. Well maybe she does, and maybe she's just getting a fat check from the studio that produced "The Grinch." How can we, the viewing public, ever be sure?

Well I stand up for the little guy. I stand up for the Consolidated Water Companies (CWCO, they supply potable water to Cayman Island resorts; their p/e ratio is to die for and their growth potential is out of sight and at less than $10, I just bought in, and it's a steal, trust me) of the world.

I have never been paid a dollar of outside money to do any honest work whatsoever. I am proud to say I earn money the old fashioned way; I get other people to earn it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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