Should The Globe and Mail tell Canadians what we should think about the Olympics, among other issues, on its front page? Anne McNeilly, former Globe journalist and now journalism professor, thinks not.

Anne 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.

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