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USUAL SUSPECTS

CBC shoots down anti-Western claims Add to ...

According to some bloggers, CBC’s anti-Western bias is on display again in its 2011-12 NHL broadcast schedule. They have noted a disproportionate number of games for teams in the East or Central Canada. There are 22 Winnipeg Jets games, 28 Montreal Canadiens games, 26 Toronto Maple Leafs games, 20 Ottawa Senators games, 17 Vancouver Canucks games, 13 Edmonton Oilers games and 12 Calgary Flames games on the schedule.

So what gives? According to Trevor Pilling, executive producer of Hockey Night In Canada, “CBC is showing every Saturday night game played by a Canadian team in the season.” The problem lies with Canadian teams in the West not having as many Saturday dates as Eastern teams do. For various reasons (8 p.m. starts in Alberta, concert dates), Western teams aren’t as fixated on Saturdays. In the East, Saturday is iconic in Toronto and Montreal. Hence, more dates for CBC to choose from.

In fact, Pilling said that, with the addition of a seventh Canadian team in Winnipeg, HNIC is adding a fifth broadcast crew. “We’ll have some announcements coming up about crews for the additional games and replacements for departed staff,” Pilling told Usual Suspects on Tuesday. For purposes of doubleheaders, Winnipeg will be considered for the first half of the bill (a 6 p.m. CT start).

“When we get to later in the season and teams are out of the running, we will adjust which teams get national exposure and which get regional coverage only,” Pilling said. “For now we’re very happy with the distribution of games that we have.”

Upon further reviews

In the ongoing quest to make NFL games longer and more boring (Pt. XVII), all touchdowns are now being reviewed by the oddsmakers in Las … er, the NFL referees. Monday’s Chicago Bears-New York Giants tilt had lots of foot shuffling and throat clearing as the NFL sought to verify what was obvious to the naked eye.

Or, to Jon Gruden’s naked eye at least. The ESPN analyst can get postal in a hurry, and the referee reviews on Monday hit his ignition switch. Gruden ripped the rule as so much butt-covering by the league that will slow down games and (as a former coach himself) threaten the flow of play calling. “It gives time for [co-analyst Ron]Jaworski to go get one of those pastrami sandwiches,” joked Gruden as he gave his ESPN colleague a friendly thump.

Play-by-play caller Mike Tirico attempted to dampen Gruden’s ire. “It only adds two or three minutes to the game,” he protested. Gruden was not mollified. Popping his Chucky grin, Gruden kept repeating, “It’s driving me crazy.” (It’s driving us crazy, too, Coach.) When it was explained that it’s to prevent injuries, Gruden was suitably unimpressed, employing the “It’s a man’s game” trope so beloved by the NHL.

Of course, Gruden can get excited about a player taping his ankles. Monday he turned it up for Ohio State reject Terrelle Pryor, who’s going to Oakland instead of Columbus this fall due to a few tattoos he failed to disclose to Buckeye officials. “I’m really excited about you going to Oakland,” Gruden beamed. Making him perhaps the only person who thinks the dysfunctional Raiders will not be the worst possible match in the universe for the ethics-challenged Pryor.

Gruden’s explanation had everything to do with his own years as a coach in Oakland and none with Pryor’s very questionable rep as a quarterback. Why so optimistic, coach? Possibly Gruden has money on San Diego in the AFC West.

Egregious error

The Vancouver Canucks are still considering their options when it comes to the Toronto Star’s insertion of a bogus quote stolen from Wikipedia and attributed to general manager Mike Gillis. The quote had Gillis saying deceased Canucks player Rick Rypien, who suffered from depression, was “crazy.” After our report Friday that Wikipedia was indeed the source of the quote, the Star admitted the goof, which it called “an egregious error.”

“This was a rookie’s mistake,” wrote public editor Kathy English, “but one I know even experienced journalists at other news organizations have made in recent years: The intern reporter assigned near deadline to write about Rypien (23-year-old Michael Woods) found the false information attributed to the Vancouver Sun on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. He failed to properly verify its accuracy. Had he done so, he would have discovered that the Gillis quote was bogus. Someone had tampered with the authentic Gillis quote from the Vancouver Sun to make it appear as if Gillis had indeed called the troubled player “crazy.”

The note in the Friday Star said the intern was “devastated by his error.” Sports editor Jon Filson was “horrified.” The paper itself was “devastated” and reached out to the Canucks to apologize. Editor Michael Cooke sent out a note to staff warning about trusting the veracity of the Internet and new information platforms.

Is the Star’s apology enough for the Canucks? That will be up to the team. But the story shows that with exit portals for information now multiplied to the nth degree, the chances of invalid information escaping have increased exponentially. Another concern is that cutbacks on staff and resources at many mainstream media outlets also pulls the safety net further back. The seeming vulnerability terrifies everyone in the business.

Mistakes happen; in this case “an egregious” mistake happened. It will not get any easier to prevent mistakes moving forward. The question will be how do consumers react to these episodes? The answer to that may tell us if mainstream media has a future in the credibility market. As English wrote, “To maintain our readers’ trust, journalists, of all people, must figure that out.” Amen.

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