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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Canadians"

The British media are in full-throated cry about the Vancouver Olympics. "A disaster," says The Guardian. "Worst ever," says the Daily Mail. And one paper even compared the opening ceremonies (which had the usual cheesy choreography this time, designed by an Australian) to the 1936 Berlin Olympics with its Nazi thematics.

On a local talk radio station in Toronto, I was asked about this expression of international journalism and why the Brits are so nasty to these inoffensive Canucks.

My friend and colleague Stephen Pritchard who is the President of the Organization of News Ombudsmen and readers' editor at The Observer in London had the following email explanation, just in time for the show:

The problem for the Brits is that we don't really have anyone to root for. Last winter olympics we had a women's curling team that did really the Brit press had something to get their teeth into.
This year, with no one to whip up excitement about we turn to other matters to amuse the readers...and nobody likes a few problems (disappearing snow; early death etc) better than the Brit press.

The boss of the Olympics was on our radio this morning vigorously defending the games and counting all its achievements so far. That did a lot to change British perception.

It is true that there is a negative attitude towards the Commonwealth's largest asset; it's fashionable to describe Canada as dull and Canadians as just too NICE. It's all tosh, of course (rather as we denigrate poor Belgium which has never done us any harm). It's deeply shaming. Let me apologise to Canada!!

No apology necessary Stephen. The Canadians have emerged in these Olympics as virtual Americans, complete with "We're Number One" type chants and "Own The Podium" campaigns. Big business and wealthy families have poured money into sports in Canada which calls into question (once again) whether the Olympics have dropped all pretense about the amateur status of the athletes.

But man up, Canada. If you can't take a bit of British slagging (a long established Fleet Street tradition), then you shouldn't feel put upon.

More worrisome is what will happen if Canada doesn't win gold in hockey. Sports journalists in Canada have been hyping these games shamelessly. We'll all need a valium the size of a hockey puck to quell the national dishonor if they don't win.


  1. And it doesn't help in the Canada bashing when a Globe and Mail London-based Canadian writer does a piece for the Spectator magazine in the UK which trashes Canada - with or without the Olympics.

  2. I wonder if John Stackhouse knows...