How Fox Morning Show Sensationalized the Halo-in-Church Issue

Earlier this week GamePolitics was highly critical of an appearance by Dr. Susan Bartell on Fox’s The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet.

Bartell, a psychologist and author, ripped violent video games in general and Halo 3 in particular. Putting it mildly, we took issue with her comments. (see: Who is This Person & Why is She Saying These Awful Things About Halo 3?)

Apparently, GamePolitics readers flooded Dr. Bartell’s e-mail with protests following our coverage. A dialogue of sorts developed between the good doctor and longtime GP reader Hayabusa75. Eventually, this led to my own correspondence with the psychologist.

Dr. Bartell was gracious, especially considering the cirumstances. I learned that she does quite a bit of TV. Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC – she’s been on all of them multiple times. She’s written four books and does a good bit of public speaking.

That being said, I was fascinated – and concerned – by what she told me about how the Halo-in-church discussion went down. If you haven’t seen it, watch the clip:

Here are some excerpts from e-mails between myself and Dr. Bartell:

GP:  One thing I found especially concerning… was [an e-mail] comment that you only saw the [Indiana University] brain scan pix five minutes before air [of The Morning Show]. That being the case, do you think it appropriate to go on and offer a professional opinion based on the scans to the audience?

Dr. Bartell: That’s the way it is with TV — it’s just not a black and white thing. I am genuinely sorry that it caused such a sense that I was being so disrespectful [to gamers]. The scans aside I stand by my opinion that violent games should not be played by teens… As to whether I should have responded to the scans — my intent was going on air to discuss whether the church should be holding Halo nights, clearly that was derailed.

GP: In all honesty, I’m having difficulty reconciling “that’s the way it is with TV” to responsible professionalism. It smacks of sensationalism. Just being candid here.

Dr. Bartell: I can understand how you feel… there is an element of sensationalism to it I suppose, but no less, IMO than all the hoopla created by the GP posters in response to my appearance. I appreciate candor — it will always help me grow as a person and as a professional. I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan! I’m just not that much of a purist…

Nice person, Dr. Bartell. But that aside, I can’t condone allowing herself to be portrayed to the audience as a subject matter expert, yet in actuality trying to explain a study she’d never seen until a Morning Show producer handed it to her just before air time.

And while I don’t doubt that some gamers were nasty in their e-mails, I’m not sure that’s relevant. Flame e-mails don’t help the gaming image, of course. But who’s got the greater responsibilty here?

I’d submit that it’s Dr. Bartell, who made these remarks on national TV because… why? The show must go on?

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