It is a move I find almost incredible, CTV has announced it will have 30 of its broadcasters take part in the Olympic Torch relay across the country.
In B.C., you’re probably hearing it here first. And the word I get is that Canwest Global BC will also have “talent” taking part directly in the Olympic Torch Relay. And CBC has been invited too: Peter Mansbridge maybe? But unlike CTV, as far as I can find, they haven’t said a word so far.
In my view, it’s a disgrace to journalistic ethics … and will hurt Canadian media credibility once more. Is that what they really need at this time???
According to the CTV announcement made back East, among the network talent who will take part, as ”torchbearers” will be: Brian Williams, CTV’s Prime Time Olympic HOST; James Duthie, CTV Olympic Daytime HOST; Michael Landsberg, CTV Olympic Daytime Whistler HOST; and, quite incredibly to me, CTV NEWS ANCHORS Ken Shaw, Christine Bentley, Carol Meehan, Daryl McIntyre, Carrie Doll, Barb Higgins, Mark Rogstad, Tony Ryma .. all from CTV stations across the country.
And Robert Hurst, CTV News President, told me Sunday night “There will be two or three torchbearers from CTV BC as well.”
Hmmm! Bill Good, Pamela Martin Tamara Taggart?
And not just anchors or program hosts will take part: CTV REPORTERS will be part of the journalistic disgrace: so far announced … Carolyn Waldo, Sports Reporter in Ottawa; Liz Rigney, Atlantic Canada Reporter; and, Stephen Brunt, Olympic Columnist, CTV.ca.
Joining a number of other CTV stars … like Ben Mulroney.
“I have been told all Canadian networks have accepted,” Hurst said.
Talk about conflict of interest! Surely the public could be forgiven if they fail to believe that, after accepting this ”honour” at the Olympics, these on-camera “talent” will also give us an honest or critical assessment of what’s really going on during the Games … and not just hype designed to support and project a positive image of happenings at the Olympics.
I have no problem with individuals, companies, community organizations, public organizations supporting the Games. I personally hope they work out teriffically for Vancouver, B.C., Canada and all the athletes and participants.
But the media who cover the games and activities should NOT also take part in them. Period!
The revelations about what I see as a clear journalistic ethical sellout first came to me in a Toronto Star blog done by Randy Starkman, who has covered Team Canada at 11 Olympic Games, dating back to 1984.
Starkman was also offered an opportunity to carry the torch by another Olympic sponsor … but declined. “No journalist should be carrying the torch,” he said,
I agree … and I believe anchors are journalists (or at least they SHOULD be) and so are the television ”hosts” who will be bringing us hour after hour of daily details of what’s supposedly going on at and surrounding the Games. Will you trust their reporting …. or see it as spin?
Hurst acknowledges that many Canadians will be skeptical about the network’s participation in the Torch Relay, but says broadcasters in several previous Olympics have done the same and vows it will have absolutely no effect on news coverage.
“We are the rights holder for the Olympic Games and have been doing all sorts of stories,: the CTV top News executive told me. “We do the good stories and the bad stories … however they come at us.”
When I asked him how impartial will anchors etc look, sitting on the set afterwards, beaming and raving about the experience, Hurst vowed news impartiality will be protected.
If an incident occcurs on the run during a network performer’s participation, that participant will not do the story, he explained.
Now, you may have not have heard this reported down here, but in Toronto it’s big news … egged on by the Star and Toronto Sun, perhaps enjoying taking shots at competitors CTV Globemedia.
But why so quiet here?? If they are taking part, see no conflict and are so proud of taking part … why haven’t CBC, Canwest Global been publicly promoting … or announcing their participation? Did I miss it? Or am I scooping them on their own story? (I love it!!)
And making it all worse is the fact that the media in Central Canada have been playing up that thousands of other Canadians, who applied to carry the torch, including at least one former Olympic athlete, have been turned down … no more space along the line.
Hurst said according to Vanoc, there will be 12,000 torchbearers: 70% of them from the ranks of ordinary Canadians; and 30 per cent selected by Vanoc, the IOC, and government. The media were invited by Vanoc.
Maybe the “broadcasters” should give up their perk so more of those ordinary Canadians who actually applied can carry the torch? That would be showing the TRUE Olympic spirit!
When I continued to press my old Ottawa colleague about the ethics of participating in something you cover, Hurst asked me a good question: do I vote?
Actually, I informed him, I did NOT vote when I covered the BC Legislature OR Parliament. It was a personal decision I made at the time … and maintained for decades until I stopped directly covering those beats.
Hurst disagreed with that practice: voting is a citizen’s responsibility he argued, even for reporters covering political beats. And the CTV News President thinks carrying the torch, at the invitation of Vanoc, and then covering the Olympics is no different than voting and covering politics.
I disagree: I see it more like actively participating in political activities … and then reporting on politics.