Canadian Journalists Told: Stop Hugging Olympic Athletes

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Murray Brewster in The Canadian Press reports that a “sobering” email went out last week “to television reporters and personalities with the rights to cover the 2010 Vancouver Games.” It warned journalists to stop hugging Canadian athletes.

Brewster writes: “Bursting displays of patriotism among journalists over the last two weeks has given the country some cringe-worthy Olympic moments, especially for those who cling to the notion of journalistic independence and objectivity.”

Even athletes noticed the flagging media objectivity, according to Brewster. He describes the “sustained round of applause” that Canadian Olympian athlete Mellissa Hollingsworth received from reporters after her “teary-eyed news conference” regarding her fifth-place loss. ” ‘ Wow,’ a surprised Hollingsworth said. ‘I know journalists are supposed to be independent. That means a lot,’ ” Brewster writes.

Brewster interviewed Stephen Ward, a professor interested in media ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Brewster reports that Ward expressed concern that “news is increasingly viewed by the people as an extension of marketing.” He “pointed to the participation of journalists in the Olympic torch run as an example of where reporters were asked to sell the Games.”

Ward concludes, “You serve your country as a journalist by covering all aspects of the story, the good and the bad…You don’t get caught in cheerleading and you don’t get caught up in muting your criticism.”

Chris Zelkovich in The Toronto Star asks, in a headline, “Have CTV announcers become cheerleaders?” He writes on Feb. 22, “A foreigner watching Saturday night’s broadcast on the main CTV network might have wondered, Whatever happened to all those self-effacing Canadians who avoid overt displays of patriotism?”

Zelkovich concludes, “Call me a dinosaur, but I prefer the old-fashioned quiet Canadian patriotism and Olympics broadcast that gave me more competition and less tub-thumping.”

Most commenters agreed with Zelkovich. “Chickadee” wrote:  “I am so glad to see someone raise this issue. I thought I was alone in my opinion. I have been so annoyed by CTV’s coverage of these olympics that I have been watching NBC’s coverage which has been fair and balanced. NBC has also given a lot of attention to Canadian athletes. I find the rah! rah! rah! coverage by CTV offensive.”

Hat tip to the 4th star blog.


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Canadian Journalists Told Stop Hugging Olympic Athletes

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