Rising Action: The reported-on complain about the reporters

Patrick Johnston
March 11 2012 03:49PM

So NHL clubs are complaining about Hockey Night in Canada, eh?

There are two things to consider here. First of all, of course NHL teams are going to want to make comments about the coverage they are getting. They are in a contract with their broadcasters, they are going to feel a certain level of 'partnership' is their due.

But it should be remembered who is paying whom. The CBC pays the NHL for the right to broadcast the games. As a media outlet, it's their job to report the story, no matter what that story might be. Sometimes that story might be somewhat embarassing to the NHL or one of its teams. Run your team badly? Players unhappy? Fans unhappy? If there's a story, Hockey Night in Canada would not be doing their job if they let the story go idle.

The complications lie in the fact that HNIC presumes they should get a heightened level of access because of all the money they are spending. This places them in a terrible ethical dilemma - the heightened access means they may develop a more intimate relationship with the people being reported-on than might develop otherwise. It's a difficult balance between trust and suspicion on the part of the NHL players and management who deal with reporters.

'Will this guy screw me if I give him the answers he really wants?'

It's not an unreasonable concern for guys like Brian Burke. He knows the media is hungry for any story, and anything he says gets vetted till the cows come home. Given how much time gets spent breaking down his words, it's not surprising Burke thinks it's his right to want to contribute to that discussion and to be able to air his grievances when he feels the commentary is unreasonable.

But, that doesn't mean he should be able to dictate what is being reported on. Burke is free to express his disappointment, and to make complaints about what is being said about him, but he shouldn't expect to get much in terms of results.

Are you keeping your responsibilty?

On the flip side, there is the danger of becoming too chummy with the sports guys. One need watch only a few minutes of a Sportsnet broadcast to see how far some will go. Is Dan Murphy really a journalist anymore?

It's a fine edge. The public wants to believe the sports news they get is authentic, not just the 'official' line.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Joel
March 11 2012, 09:22PM
Trash it!
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PJ,

Seems to me there aren't many journalists at HNIC anyway. Most are pundits that are touting their own agendas.

Joel

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#3 Joel
March 12 2012, 12:04PM
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@Patrick Johnston

At least the broadcaster and the league are separate entities. With the Jays, Rogers owns the team, the TV broadcaster (Sportsnet), and the radio broadcaster (Fan590).

IMO the league is smart to inform the broadcaster of their grievances ahead of the contract coming up. As a league that supposedly wants to bring their product into the 21st century, how the product is presented by the broadcasters should be an important part of that strategy. If CTV can provide a more modern product while paying a similar price, then it may be smart to go with them. Or use a bid from CTV to leverage CBC to change how they present the sport. I have no problem with this unless the league or individual teams start denying interviews to actual HNIC reporters like Freidman, Campbell, etc. in retribution for things pundits say. Burke was wrong to do this to the Team station when he was GM in Vancouver.

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