There was another one of those embarrassing media-gets-it-wrong stories today, about who was going to carry the flag into the closing ceremonies Sunday evening.
The report apparently came out of Canadian Press, which reported that after meeting Saturday night, officials from the Canadian Olympic Committee had selected double-gold-medallist Charles Hamelin to be Canada’s flag-bearer. CP said it got confirmation from “two federal government sources” as well as Hamelin himself, but not from the COC.
Websites that carry Canadian Press content posted the story. Other news sources, like Agence QMI, Cyberpresse, Canwest News Service and Rue Frontenac, rewrote CP’s story, some being more careful than others about its unofficial nature.
The COC quickly denied the report, and later announced that in fact it would be Joannie Rochette who would carry the flag into the closing ceremony.
Assuming what CP reported was true – that Hamelin was told he’d be carrying the flag, that he was getting congratulations already from fellow athletes, and that people in the government also had reliable information confirming the selection – then the erroneous report is reasonable and forgiveable. To its credit, CP left room throughout the process for the possibility that it might be wrong.
I haven’t found a story yet asking the obvious question: Why did Hamelin think he would be the flag-bearer? Was he asked about it and incorrectly assumed that meant he’d been selected? Did the COC intentionally mislead him to throw the media off the trail? Did someone just assume that Hamelin would be selected because he was the double-gold-medallist?
I’m hopeful that someone will be able to ask Hamelin that question, and that the various media won’t shy away from it because it draws attention to the fact that they got the story wrong.
(UPDATE: This story has this paragraph: “A short-track team spokesman said later that the team was either sick of being asked about the flag-bearer job or had simply started to believe rumours that had been circulating.” – Not really an explanation. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories are spreading.)
Like with the Gordon Lightfoot story, my issue isn’t so much with the media getting the story wrong as their attempts to cover it up once they’re corrected.
Even as I write this, hours after the official announcement, many sources still have the wrong story, including Yahoo! News, LCN, the Vancouver Province and CTV Montreal. Other stories were simply deleted, while most were quietly replaced with the announcement. Few mentioned getting the story wrong previously, some making vague references to rumours in unnamed media.
No apologies, no analysis of how they got the story wrong. And the credibility of the news media takes another hit as a result.