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NEWS MEDIA LOSES OBJECTIVITY
Local Media Pro lashes out at OlyBLOG.com
I recently received a response (May 2006) from a senior
member of Vancouver news media that was, to say the least, arrogant, rude,
and more importantly, indicative of this professional's complete lack
of global sense of place. It demonstrated almost perfectly the serious
downside, in our 2010 era, of some Vancouver media being insular and not
knowing how the contemporary world around us works.
The response was surprising, but only because this person is a senior
member of news media with well over two decades of experience. I was not
surprised to receive the message, I was however surprised to receive it
from someone with such depth of experience. The personal attack on my
intellect and credibility was something I expected from a junior woodchuck,
not a seasoned pro that should have known better than to take it personally
and lose objectivity.
Unfortunately, the response was sent with a harshly worded demand that
the author and the message not be identified, and I promised to comply,
with limitations, but not without asking that this person reconsider and
allow me to connect the writer with at least one of the statements in
the message. My request was ignored.
In an effort to protect the sender, and the sender's company, and for
the sake of simplicity, I will refer to this person simply as "Kim Philby,"
and as neither, male or female.
I will however share with you "my" response to Philby's message. Unfortunately,
I cannot share Philby's original message with you because it would surly
identify the author and company.
Unfortunately too, I also cannot reveal which of my articles incited the
response, because to do so would reveal the sender and company, which
means I must get a little creative in an effort to help you understand
Rest assured though, you know Philby and news company well.
By far, the most interesting admission was that Philby did not, as a member
of local media, feel any responsibility whatsoever to protect our community.
Philby, and obviously Philby's news company are clearly in business strictly
for personal gain. It is not surprising news for me, because after all,
it is what I've been warning you about for the last two years, it is however
surprising that a senior member of Vancouver news media would so easily
Here is one line of what Philby wrote to me. Philby was responding
to my assertion that everyone in our region has a responsibility to make
the Olympics work relative to the best interest of the local community.
"My mandate as a reporter isn't to "reduce Olympic spending", be a "part
of the problem" or even be a part of the solution. It's not in any handbook
I've ever read. Maybe it's in yours, but my job is to write about the
Olympics, fully and fairly."
Philby's statement referencing "journalistic integrity" is noble, except
that the last three words, as they relate specifically to Philby's news
company are false. Philby's news company does not, as a result of either
ignorance, design, or both, report fully or fairly regarding the Olympics.
Their actions over the last two years very strongly indicate that they
report primarily to further their prospect of economic gain. The sophistication
of their news company leads us to believe they are doing this purposefully,
and that they are not naïve. Philby also wrote above that it is not in
Philby's mandate to be a "part of the problem," yet that is
exactly what Philby's news company is doing. Half-truths contribute to
Absolutely all news companies in Olympic regions stand to make a fortune
as a direct result of the Games, some more than others. In fact, recent
history has proven that the news company that tells the Olympic story
in a manner that aligns most favorably with Olympic organizations stands
to profit the most, and as we all know after watching what happened in
Salt Lake City ($1.2 billion deficit - recently reported by CBC), Athens
($12 billion deficit - common knowledge) and Turin (still counting), news
media's gain, by default, is always on the back of the community.
I ask Kim Philby again; do you feel any responsibility to at least explore
the possibility that media relationships with Olympic organizations contribute
in a significant way to these rising community costs? If it is not in
your handbook, it is time for you to start reading a new book, and I have
a perfect suggestion. It's called Leverage
Olympic Momentum. I am sorry for the shameless pitch, but if you know
of any other books published regarding 2010 that address in documented
detail the relationship between the community, small and midsize businesses,
news media companies, and Olympic organizations, please let me know, and
if appropriate, I will recommend them too. We decided to nip trouble in
the bud, so consequently this is the first time in history a book of this
sort has been released before the fact, much to the chagrin of Olympic
organizations and local news media. It is important to note that books
even remotely similar to Leverage Olympic Momentum are ALWAYS released
after the Games leave town and well after the damage is done.
Here is my ORIGINAL complete response to Philby's first message; (In a
second response to Philby I sent a message asking if Philby's news company
is now, or do they ever have plans to become an Olympic sponsor. Newspapers
become Olympic sponsors just like Visa or RBC, and when they do, they
sign a legally binding agreement stating they cannot take any action that
is detrimental to Olympic organizations, including reporting news that
hurts the Olympic image. Never heard back.
On a side note, and I'm not suggesting or
that Philby is connected to this addendum . . .
** Since this article was originally published in June of 2006, The
Vancouver Sun announced in July 2007 (as I've been predicting since
2005), that they are on VANOC's payroll and will become the offical Olympic
local news media trumpet for 2010.
(Square parenthesis [ ******* ] indicates I replaced words to protect
The 21st Century is a new and difficult time for [all traditional styles
of] news media. If you keep an open mind you have nothing to worry about,
however, you exhibit classic signs of a person clutching to an ideology
that is no longer relevant, or exists. In this modern era, if you have
something to say, say it in an open forum and put your name on it, if
not, you have nothing of consequence to say. It's not my rule. It's just
the way it is today.
You characterize me as tilting at windmills, which is ironic because your
company operates in some respects like a defunct, old-fashioned apparatus.
Your windmill however, is not in my imagination. It is instead a reality
you do not want to face. You might have noticed that I do not tilt at
wind turbines (news companies with a progressive outlook that operate
objectively and in a nonpartisan way), only windmills.
I am sorry to see you are not interested in learning more about the changing
world around you. I never claim OlyBLOG.com is the only view; only that
it is progressive and unique. Ignore us at your peril.
Your comments are founded on old thinking. Calling me names reflects your
state of anger and frustration, but I suspect you're not half as mad at
me as you are at the overall state of affairs of your industry. You attacked
me personally, but you know little about me except what you surmised from
a cursory view while you were upset. I on the other hand have followed
your news company closely for quite some time and now feel qualified to
use the term "[inept]" relative to your collective performance. My only
other alternative was to accuse you of bias, but it wasn't appropriate
in that specific instance, nor did I want to chase around to connect the
dots to prove an absolute. Your explanation of how you manipulate "[people
you interview]" or how they manipulate you is so convoluted, not to mention
unethical, I don't even know where to begin, so I won't, at least for
the time being. If you really operate like this you have lost your moral
compass and don't know you're going in circles.
In response to some of your other comments, first, regarding the [company
name] piece, I included the date simply as a point of reference, and I
agree that the wording was distracting. My rule of thumb is that when
I relate information that is generic, it does not warrant a cite. Besides,
were you really upset because I didn't rag on you? That's a first. In
case you haven't noticed, most media DO NOT want me to mention them. You
should have noticed that my comment was not at all about your news company,
but of the relationship between [your company] and VANOC. I made a decision
not to drag your company into it because you actually also told the community's
side of the story -- albeit with an incredibly biased lead, and zero mention
that this happens in all Olympic regions (ed. note; another perfect example
of your news company's trend of not telling the full story). Here's a
direct quote from the piece you referenced.
[Sorry section removed to protect the identity of Philby and company.]
… Go back [Philby] and re-read my excerpt from the book to see what I
wrote months ago about this issue. Our purpose is not to blindly support
VANOC's agenda. It is to clarify the bigger picture for our business readers.
If they want propaganda, they can go elsewhere, but in this instance,
your company is not important, and even mentioning them would only confuse
the issue. If you like I will remedy it in the next issue. Just let me
know, but in the interim, if you were not trying to influence readers
to support this common and inane Olympic practice why would you choose
to lead your article off with a picture of a [icon], that ironically,
to informed people represents obesity in children?
I don't care what VANOC has "confirmed" in the short or long run re [company
name mentioned in your article] because I recognize what they are doing
based on our "extensive" research and the history of past Olympic organizations.
It may be new news to you, but it is rote to me. You underestimate my
knowledge and experience, and you confuse what I do with what a publication
that sells advertising does. I answer to no one except our community --
not [company name], Bob Rennie, HBC or VANOC. Unlike you, my success is
directly dependent on the success of the overall community, not just elite
players. And BTW, I attend all the Olympic functions that matter (I sent
a correspondent to Italy last August to talk to the small and midsize
business community at a time that was more important than showing up for
the confusion which was 2006. I don't have to stick my hand in boiling
water to prove it is hot, and do not have to subject myself to another
poorly run Games to know it is chaos. You arrogantly demanded to know
why you never see me at VANOC press conferences, but I have to ask, where
were "you" when plans were being made in Italy? If you knew anything about
special events you would know that it is at the preplanning stage that
you learn the most, not during an event that is running on emotion and
inertia. I didn't see [your news company] report important information
for our business community that we reported, before the fact, in my blog
and book. You never went to the street to talk to retailers the way we
did. Retailers and resort owners reported, like they did in Salt Lake
City and Athens, that they were bashed mercilessly by the Games. Have
you ever reported this perspective? Ever?)
Also for the record, I managed a major event for Calgary '88, plus Expo
'86, and quite literally 1,000 plus events around the world since 1978
in partnership with companies like IBM, Bell, and Eli Lilly, among others,
in cities like Miami, New York, San Diego, London, Amsterdam, San Juan,
Hamilton (Bermuda), Sydney (Australia) and literally thousands of other
towns in between. My view, unlike yours, is a worldview. By far, the Olympic
event was the second most disorganized experience of my long career (I
describe it in detail in my book), and based on our relatively recent
research (since 2003), I now know my experience with them was not an anomaly.
I know what is coming in the next four years, and I have gone on record
to share this information regularly for the last two years. Unfortunately,
you chose to ignore us because it doesn't fit your agenda of profit. I
do not have to prove anything to you. My record speaks for itself.
I gave [your news company] the benefit of the doubt for the last couple
of years, but I can no longer afford to do so. In the beginning, I was
gentle and respectful, but you guys didn't get the hint. Now, the gloves
You and all local media are absolutely mistaken if you think your responsibility
is not first to our community. I don't care what type of oath you took,
and you may follow it, but media in general no longer does. Take it up
with your boss. If you think otherwise regarding allegiance to our community
then it is time for you to retire or move. (I beg of you to allow me to
attribute your statement regarding your perception of allegiance, or more
accurately, lack thereof to our community, to you in my blog. I doubt
you will grant it, but I have to ask.) The statement you made is central
to the problem with traditional media in Olympic regions today. You are
not alone in your thinking, but unfortunately, you are not right. It speaks
of your age and the "warm and fuzzy" notion of the Olympics you steadfastly
cling to. It's time to grow up. Ben Johnson was my wake up call. Part
of my job today, and I assumed it reluctantly, but had no choice, is to
make sure small and midsize business owners know that your news company
stands to make a fortune off the Games, and an even greater fortune by
telling the Olympic version of the Olympic story. I doubt that you are
naive, so consequently, if you do not realize local media's role by now,
then I have completely overrated your intellect and investigative skills.
I address media's interaction in my book and blog and have been predicting
for some time [which news company] will become the sponsor media in our
region. If you don't know what that means, read my book. You won't like
it. I have to admit though, it is also possible [name of company], could
become a contender, but [one news company in particular] is a better fit
for the image the IOC promotes of itself.
Change is difficult for everyone. I am 52 with a world and lifetime of
research and media experience, and if you think my perspective is different,
wait to you see what is to befall this region in the next few years regarding
media and the Games. I am but the thinnest leading edge. One of your mistakes
is to fault me for getting there first. If all local media did their job,
I wouldn't have to waste so much time correcting misinformation. You distract
me in a way you cannot imagine, but in a short time from now, if you continue
along the same road I will not have to concern myself with you, and neither
will the community. My book describes in exact detail what your company
is doing. You are cookie cutter.
Considering you are a respected senior media professional, your angry
response only demonstrates once more that most local media professionals
do not have a clue what happens to a community in an Olympic region --
until it is too late. Either that or you are a very good liar, which I
doubt because I know your work and reputation. Why sully it now over a
seventeen day event that will serve to make your employer more wealthy
at your and the community's expense? You gave yourself away when you wrote
that what "you" read regarding the Olympics is not what I read. You proved
beyond a doubt in that statement that whatever you're reading does not
give you a balanced perspective, and based on your history and experience
with FOI [freedom of information] requests, this tells me you are not
looking hard enough or in the right places. You dismissed my perspective
out of hand without considering it properly. If I were a reporter I would
demand of my interviewees to know why. But I am not, so I only report
"your" actions, and explain to a very select audience (small and midsize
business owners) "my interpretation of your company's" motivations. Whatever
you are reading obviously comes from Olympic organizations, which means,
as I describe in my book, that your perspective is biased. We spent almost
three years and invested a six-figure budget researching what happens
in Olympic regions. I know that for a big company like yours it is a minor
blip, but for a small company like mine, it is a big accomplishment to
paddle into breaking waves for three years and still have enough energy
to get up every now and then and ride a killer wave, which BTW is happening
more and more every day. Interestingly, every time I look around I see
more and more people in the surf with me. So far, every single one of
my major predictions has come to pass. I haven't missed once, including
my description of "how media works an Olympic region." [Your news company]
could be the poster child for "necessary illusion" (Chomsky.) If you don't
like my blog, you will hate the book, and the movie will give you a stroke.
You opened your response by calling me an apologist in a manner that suggests
it is a bad thing. You suggested I should be a reporter instead. Why?
That's your job.
Your comment about first-line sources is immaterial and couched in old
thinking. No one cares about my sources because they understand that what
I do is much different than what you do. You also still haven't figured
out that my sources are 'YOU." Out of respect for your industry, and in
an effort to give all media an opportunity to rethink the role they play
in our burgeoning Olympic region, it seems I have been too subtle. People
today care more about how you (media) "interpret" your sources. They want
the backstory, and I provide it. (Our slogan is, "We don't break the news.
We fix it.") OlyBLOG.com is for small and midsize business owners, not
the general public. Intelligent people no longer take media's word as
gospel. We compare. In case you haven't noticed, the public has a deep
and justified distrust of media, and I suspect this is "partially" why
you are angry with me. I suspect this based on our research and experience,
and I am not simply hanging it on reports from PEW Research. I also suspect
that you're partially upset because I pull the curtain aside to reveal
the wizard. You are taking this personally when you should instead be
looking closely at the overall machinations of your industry. Unfortunately,
anyone with [over two decades] invested in a dying business model, like
you have, has a difficult time being objective, and I do not blame you
in the least, but you have to move beyond it. Attacking my intellect and
credibility the way you did might make you feel temporarily superior,
but it won't help you win back the marketshare [your news company] loses
On November 10, 2005 I attended a seminar at the downtown SFU campus.
It was entitled "Making Media, Creating the Conditions for Communication
in the Public Good," with guest speaker Marc Raboy professor of ethics
and media at McGill.
At the end of his presentation one of the questions from the audience
was prefaced with a statement that [your news company] has a reputation
for being the worst [news company of your style] in Canada. All heads
including mine turned to see who made this bold cutting remark.
The theatre was three quarters full and included many journalists and
media professionals, some I presume from [your news company]. In subsequent
questions and statements over the next forty or so minutes not one person
in the audience defended [your news company]. (ed. note; Where were you?)
I had no idea at the time that your local [news company] attracted national
criticism. I thought I was the only one holding your feet to the fire.
It is obvious from your comments that you do not have a sense of my collective
work, so you would not know that it is only on rare occasions that I have
cause to critique "other" media. It's not a coincidence. [Your news company]
is deserving of my observations and comments, but when I occasionally
see others go off the rails, I do not play favorites. Regardless of what
you think you know about news company owners in Olympic regions, I know
different, and your company has proven it to me and my readers for the
last two years. (You're too close and have a vested interest to easily
accept what I know.) My book, in a way, is a preemptive roadmap regarding
[your news company] for the next four years. So far you have disappointed
me and our readers, but hopefully you will turn things around. In fact,
that is the whole point of this exercise. If you don't change, I will
still win, but it could be a relatively hollow victory. (My goal is not
to prove that I am right, it is to enact change that will benefit the
community.) On the flip side, if you get onboard with the community you,
I, and our region will be even bigger winners. So far you are on the wrong
path. Our community needs media to step up to the plate - or shut up.
If media is going to hold up the nonpartisan card, then play it the way
it is meant to be played, fairly. The point of my book, and respected
academics, plus professionals with high-level Olympic backgrounds also
state, that the current Olympic model does not work, and that local media
more often than not play a major role in perpetuating a plan that is doomed
for failure from the outset. The difference between them and I, is that
they only criticize, while we, not only offer solutions, but also make
strides towards their execution as represented through my blog, book and
our work with the business community.
[ed. note; This paragraph is for clarification and is not in my original
response to Philby: We developed an innovative solution that will benefit
the community and at the same time generate reasonable profit for us and
other small and midsize businesses who in past Olympic regions have been
shut out completely. Some local news media, in a process referred to as
"necessary illusion," and based on "checkbook journalism," (which means
media is bought by Olympic organizations) allow irresponsible Olympic
critics to spout off and do nothing but "tear down," especially those
critics media knows to be ineffective. It allows media to say, "See, we're
not biased towards Olympic organizations. We give fair time to critics."
I am pro-Olympic and steadfastly support the Games, but my solutions negatively
impact "some" local news media companies' ability to profit off the back
of the community. It is not a coincidence that I regularly find fault
with only one news media company.]
Back to my message to Philby;
The last three Olympic regions have been wracked with economic hardship.
It has to change, and it has to start with you, which is why I question
how you unconditionally put your [news] company's gain before that of
our community. It is a thin veil for you to invoke considering the wobbly
reputation your industry currently lumbers under. Because of the integral
role media chooses to play [for profit], you have a responsibility to
make the Olympics work for everyone, and not just line your pockets. If
you think we are going to sit by and watch you do so you are mistaken.
It's a new era with new rules. Now is not the time for your company to
posture over oft ignored and loosely interpreted airs of "journalist integrity."
Now is the time to do the right thing.
I'm surprised and sorry you took this personally, although in retrospect
knowing your company's reputation I suppose I shouldn't be. You broke
a cardinal rule of journalism by not remaining objective, which proves
my point in spades. But I hope our interaction has caused you to at least
think differently. It has nothing to do with personal gain re my book.
It would be nice if I had more support from local media, but it is not
necessary, and considering what I wrote in my book about [specific local
news companies], I pretty well sealed the deal [for their support] when
I released it. However, every time one of my predictions comes true [your
unprofessional attack here is one more tiny instance], my cred goes up
a notch, and of late it happens quite regularly. Attack me personally
all you want, or continue to ignore me. I describe both strategies in
detail in my book because I knew how you would react. We don't need you
to juice our company. We do however need you to consider and report both
sides of the story, and I ask that if [your news company] feels they have
to continue to be biased, could you please at least lean towards the community?
If you are interested in telling the "Olympic story" in my presence you
have little choice but to relate a much bigger picture. My book provides
a 40,000 feet view. Ignore it, and you ignore our community.
Maurice Cardinal Editor - OlyBLOG.com
P.S. Your message to me started with a notice that it was your "personal
view" and not for distribution, and I will honor your demand, but I'm
wondering, have "you" always adhered to the "off the record" request?
In the media world I see, nothing is ever fully off the record. It is
how people get caught saying something in private when they assume the
microphone was turned off. It's no wonder media is not trusted. My "response"
to you here is not off the record, and out of respect to you, and because
I want business owners in our community to understand what they are dealing
with, I will eventually publish my message in a way that does not reveal
your identity. But I also want you to clearly understand, that anything
you send me in the future may be used with your name attached, if appropriate,
unless of course you want your comments and observations protected under
the "source" convention and published anonymously. (But remember, no biased
Olympic boosterism or I/we as in the community will ignore you.) If you
want to continue a "public discussion" based on my remarks here I will
continue to honor your demand to not publish your first message to me,
and work with you to make sure you are not identified. You were angry
and I am sure it does not reflect your intellectual self.
- THE BOOK
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