Olympic win: not the Globe and Mail's shining hour

ShareThisAnne McNeillyJournalism professor and former Globe and Mail journalist Anne McNeilly says a screaming Globe Olympic medal headline was pure PR -- and had no place on the front page.



When I picked up The Globe and Mail from my front porch Saturday morning, I was shocked by the headline on the top story about the opening of the Olympics – “OUR SHINING HOUR.”  My immediate reaction: Wow!  I didn’t know this was my shining hour.

Good to know.

But I’m not so sure it was a "shining" hour for the placard-waving Canadian protesters marching outside the opening ceremonies or the 50 per cent of B.C. residents who, according to polls, don’t think the Olympics are going to be a boon to their province.  I'm certainly sure it wasn’t a shining hour for the Canadians who were dealing with the tragedy that befell the Georgian luger just hours before the ceremonies began.

But I’m so glad the Globe took it upon itself to tell me what I, and every other Canadian, should think about these ceremonies. I might not have been able to come up with my own idea if the paper had just reported what happened.

The ceremonies may well be Canada’s shining hour, or they may not, but to allow Globe headline writers to bellow (60 point type, all caps across six columns of the front page) this opinion as a fact is a sad day indeed, not only for the country’s so-called national paper, but newspapers everywhere.

I’ve always thought the reporter’s job was to gather facts and information and present them fairly so that readers could make up their own minds. Once upon a time, you turned to the editorial page for the clearly identified opinions of the newspaper and its editors.

Recently, the Globe has taken some heat from Geoffrey Stevens for moving some of those editorials onto the front page – the Globe’s former managing editor thinks the front page isn’t  appropriate as an editorial destination. But this goes even further –  it presents the headline writer’s opinion as  fact in a way that leaves no room for debate.

Isn’t this also called propaganda?

Newspapers are already facing hard times with the migration of readers to the web. The Globe’s decision to abandon the most basic responsibility of accurate and fair reporting suggests the death knell for newspapers is now tolling more loudly than ever.
 
What’s next? Is the Globe going to present only those views and opinions on the front page that its editors think the country should assume? Should Canadians prepare to read only the ideas and comments of politicians who the paper thinks we should vote for? Will the headline news writers next be blubbering over the loss of the Leafs, or cheering, maybe chiding, the indiscretions of Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone?

Personally, I want information on my front page, not opinion and PR platitudes. And I definitely don’t want to be lumped in with every other Canadian in the country as in “our” shining hour. Maybe the headline writer forgot the country is usually described as a mosaic, not a melting pot.

In any case, whatever kind of hour it was for Canadians on Saturday, it certainly wasn’t the Globe’s most shining hour.

Anne McNeilly, who once wrote news headlines for The Globe and Mail, now teaches journalism at Ryerson University.

Comments

Overreact much? Sheesh....
And in all the hyper-ventilative journalism about the Games in general and the opening ceremonies in particular, I didn't hear any critical inquiry in the media about how Canada's native population was represented--all in glorious native dress, all dancing joyously, all supportive of this very expensive exercise in self-congratulation. Is this really an accurate picture of the state of social mosaic, or how our First Nations really feel about these Games? Or is this too rude question for the media to ask while we're all celebrating? Oh, and when the Canadian national team marched out in parade, how many native athletes were among them? I think the answer is one. I think this may say something about the much-heralded First Nations partnership in these Games. But these wasn't part of the media discussion. Nobody wants to be a party-pooper . . .
On the evening of the opening ceremonies I rode a city bus into Victoria and had a lengthy conversation with an Indian from Saskatchewan. He didn't care about the Olympics. He's looking for a job and he's worried about his brother (on disability benefits) whom has taken up residence at his home. That's the reality. Indian children, for many reasons, never get a chance to do the sports our Olympians do. There's a lot of talent being wasted and a feel-good ceremony isn't going to change that. And for the record, I'm Metis.
Hey J-Source - How about getting someone to do a serious analysis of how the various newspapers have covered the Games once they're over? I'd be curious to read a well-researched piece about how papers balanced the critical and the celebratory, rather than a strange rant about one headline on a magazine-style Saturday front page. The Guardian has a much more positive assessment of the Canadian press's coverage of the Games so far today: http://bit.ly/9ndYVT A sad day for newspapers everywhere? Is this person really a journalism professor? I hope she knows 60-point type isn't just reserved for the outbreak of war anymore.
Hey back, Kelly Nestruck - how about looking at J-Source's whole big Olympic section -- which is increasingly comprehensive -- before taking personal shots at one contributor's opinion? Check it out: http://www.j-source.ca/english_new/category.php?catid=284 There's a lot of analysis as well as opinion already there. But this is a place for people to have conversations etc. about journalism, and almost everybody is a volunteer. Soooo ... it would be great if you'd volunteer "to do a serious analysis of how the various newspapers have covered the Games once they're over." Personally I'd love to read "a well-researched piece about how papers balanced the critical and the celebratory." The more journalists helping to build this conversation, the merrier.
You've seen the rah-rah coverage of The Games. Here's a sampling of the head butts from around the world: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/5247569-ten-headlines-that-make-2010-olympic-organizers-cringe I'm not sure what it demonstrates s, if anything, other than the never-ending half/full, half/empty world of journalism.

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