Saint-Laurent News needs to get off its high horse

The Saint-Laurent News (one of the Transcontinental-owned community weeklies) has an article this week putting some perspective on the “veritable media circus” surrounding their arena after an “alarmist” article in “a Montreal English-language newspaper” exposed the fact that many local ice rinks have been shown to have unsafe levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The toxic gases are caused by ice resurfacers (Zamboni machines) which run on gas.

A few things:

  1. There was no “media circus” around the St. Laurent Arena. There was an alarmist article in The Gazette (“Poison in air at rinks” in giant letters on A1) as well as a matching editorial, but neither focused exclusively on the St. Laurent Arena. The article grouped it with two others as those which showed dangerously high levels of the gases, but even then it fingered Sportplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds (an arena used by the Canadiens) as the worst offender. A short article by 940 News didn’t mention St. Laurent at all. And a Suburban article about the situation even defended the arenas, giving their side of the story, and a La Presse piece downplayed the risks, saying the quality of air was improving.
  2. The implication is that the news coverage was unjustified or even incorrect (and they needed to “uncover the real story”). The list of arenas was taken right out of a government report (PDF), and while it may have been sensationalized (the report actually said the quality of air was improving at the rinks), the fact remains that seven arenas had levels of CO and NO2 which were above what is considered safe. That’s clearly a matter of public interest that deserves news coverage.
  3. “A Montreal English-language newspaper”? Can we please stop with this B.S. coyness about naming other media? How many people read the Saint-Laurent News and have never heard of The Gazette?
  4. The article points out that now St. Laurent has a new electric ice resurfacer, toxic gas detectors and better ventilation and their air quality has improved. It’s debatable whether the Gazette article caused these things to happen faster than they would have, but either way the coverage did more good than harm, no?

Pointing out the flaws of other media is fair game (in fact, for many, it’s a sport), but before you do that you should make sure you’re actually pointing out flaws.  Self-important snark, especially when you’re in the wrong, makes you look like a douche. (Trust me, I should know.)

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