Over the top

Being a journalist makes you a quick enemy of a lot of people who take things very personally. They’ll take something you say as evidence of a personal bias against them, and start taking a fine-toothed comb to everything you write, pointing out every mistake and interpreting everything you say in the most negative way possible.

Political journalism is the worst. People take the most minute things in politics very seriously. I got a good taste of that in university covering the Concordia Student Union. National politics is worse because there’s a much larger audience, because it’s professional (people get paid big bucks to be politicians), and because people think that it’s really important.

So you can imagine what happened to The Gazette’s Elizabeth Thompson (an otherwise straight-faced reporter whose copy I have mercilessly slashed to bits lovingly edited with care many times) when she made a few good-natured but insensitively snarky jokes at the expense of the prime minister’s director of communications, Sandra Buckler, who’s having surgery as part of cancer treatment.

Though there was no malice intended, making fun of someone who is being treated for cancer is a bit lacking in taste, the kind of insensitivity I’ve shown myself on many an occasion when I post before I think.

Reading the comments attached to the post, however, you’d think she started cheering for her to die:

  • I’ve called the Managing Editor to bring it to his attention, and will be contacting CanWest advertisers to let them know I will be actively boycotting their products.
  • Liz Thompson of the Montréal Gazette whose lack of common decency and narcissism has lead the Parliament Hill reporter to refuse to take the high road and apologize for her vile blog in which she defamed the Director of Communications of the Prime Minister
  • That is about the worst thing I have ever read.

There are also other (Conservative) blogs that have picked up on the issue and gone so far as to call the paper’s managing editor to express their outrage (another reason I do not covet his job).

To her credit, Thompson apologized to Buckler, and has left (most of) the comments attached to the post, many of which are a bit less hot-headed about her crossing the line.

In the end, hopefully everyone has learned that behind all the politics and professionalism, everyone is human.

UPDATE: Thompson follows up with a heartfelt, honest mea culpa, explaining the lessons she’s learned.

8 thoughts on “Over the top

  1. Jonathan

    I hate that kind of hypocrite politically-correctness.

    Goddamn it, the women has cancer, who cares?

    If Vincent Lacroix would have had a testicular cancer, would the people have not treated him like an asshole? The guy’s a goddamn asshole! WHO CARES IF HE HAS CANCER (which he doesn’t, for info).

    So I repeat, WHO CARES? The woman’s behind the dictatorship-style restrained communications of the Government… Let’s just admit the woman’s a freaking artist of the Tories comm-bullshit-hide-and-seek-information.

    Criticism, as hard as it can be and as virulent as it stands is just pure criticism. I hate it when people mix personal life with politics. Except when they interfere (in which case, here, doesn’t).

    Castro’s a freaking communist SOAB dictator. And he’s dying. Am I a mofo because I think he’s freaking dictator whose utopia has turned into a unachievable dream of beating the USA’s socioeconomics dotrins?

    I don’t think so.

  2. Pingback: Blue Like You » Blog Archive » Media snark jumps the shark

  3. Alberta Girl

    “They’ll take something you say as evidence of a personal bias against them, and start taking a fine-toothed comb to everything you write, pointing out every mistake and interpreting everything you say in the most negative way possible.”

    Gee sounds JUST like the PPG. What Ms Thompson did is prove the depth of the hatred the press has for the PMO and that they can find something negative to say about even cancer.

    Bias in the press – you bet – and this is just one glaring example.

  4. Bryan

    Apparently she’s taking quite the beating. Changed her original text to delete the ‘communicatrix’ (love that word!). Have you ever gone back and edited your posts to satisfy the readers? Oh and i was wondering about using moderation for comments. Since the wordpress spam filters pretty much catch all, what are you moderating exactly?

  5. Roy Eappen

    I did call the managing editor. Thompson should think before she writes. I have every right to tell Raymond Brassard what I think. It was an unbelievably insensitive comment. I frequently write letters to the editor in The gazette and NP. I suspect that and that I treat thyroid cancer is why the editor called me back.

  6. Anonymous

    I think the most amazing thing is all the comments she got, since most previous posts had no comments at all.

  7. Fagstein Post author

    I edit my posts all the time, usually for updates, but often to correct things or clarify things. Some of those edits have been because of second thoughts about something I said that rubbed people the wrong way or that people have misinterpreted.

    As for moderating comments, I still get plenty of spam that passes through the filters, as well as enough trolls that it’s still worthwhile. In the end, I’m responsible for what goes on my blog. And since many people subscribe to comment threads, I don’t want them to get spammed as well.

  8. Glendronach

    And so we are informed that one of her lessons learned is:

    “4 – Past donations to cancer research, helping friends with cancer and asking your employer to transfer some of your vacation days to a colleague so they could spend more time with a spouse dying of cancer do not make up for writing something insensitive.”

    No, she learned how to serve up a non sequitur. At issue is not whether her past good works could offset the results of her vituperation, it is how someone who actually performed those works could contemplate writing such spite.

    And, no, your after-school-special closing statement is not the lesson for us all. We know we are all human, but some are either incapable of or unwilling to abide by an acceptable standard of humanity.


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