Monthly Archives: August 2008

Top 10 worst moments of the Beijing Olympics

CBC’s calling it “a great Olympics” and everyone seems to have forgotten the smog and other hyped-up problems with the Beijing Games now that they went on without a major hitch. As news outlets produce their top 10 Olympic moments, I feel it’s time to counter that with some lowlights (if you’re just interested in athlete failures, CBC has some more national embarassments)

10. CBC commentators

It wasn’t deliberate, but a comment by a CBC commentator during an Olympic synchronized diving competition that the two Chinese divers “even look the same” when they clearly don’t didn’t impress one viewer. CBC’s habit of taking Olympic loser has-beens former athletes and bringing them in as commentators was good-intentioned, but ultimately led to awkward play-by-play as they didn’t have adequate training in broadcasting.

9. Adam van Koeverden, men’s K-1 1,000-metre kayak race

Van Koeverden, a world champion, our opening ceremony flag-bearer and presumed medal shoo-in, spent the first half of the final in a close second, then watched as almost the entire field rowed past him. He ended up eighth out of nine, two seconds slower than his previous heat time, and an embarrassment so great he immediately had to apologize. Of course, he redeemed himself the next day, taking silver in the K-1 500, taking Canada’s final medal of the Games.

8. Marie-Hélène Prémont, women’s mountain biking

Another medal favourite and multiple world champion, Prémont starts hyperventilating inexplicably on her second lap and is forced to withdraw from the race.

7. Janos Baranyai, Hungarian weightlifter (77kg)

Providing the answer to the question “can’t lifting twice your weight over your head hurt you?”, Baranyai’s arm can’t hold up his 148 kg attempt and the weight dislocates his elbow, bending his arm backwards. That was it for show-stopping injuries in weightlifting, which is pretty impressive considering all the men’s and women’s weight classes all trying to break world records in obscene weightlifts. Baranyai is probably out the rest of the year (and that will hurt him financially because of Hungary’s lacking athlete insurance policies), but otherwise he’s expected to recover.

6. U.S. 4×100 relay teams

Expected medal favourites (second perhaps only to Jamaica), the U.S. men’s 4×100-metre relay team fumbles, literally, in a preliminary heat as Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay can’t complete a handoff and the baton is dropped. The team is disqualified and doesn’t make it to the final. That would be bad enough, but mere hours later, Torri Edwards and Lauryn Williams fail to connect on their final pass in a women’s 4×100 relay heat, and both teams leave Beijing humiliated.

5. Liu Xiang, Chinese 110-metre hurdler

A national hero with endorsement deals up the Xiang-Xiang, Liu pulls up with a leg injury in heats and fails to qualify for the final. Not only is the country disappointed, but so are insurance companies and advertisers. The BBC compounds the awfulness with some misleading editing.

4. NBC

The U.S. national broadcaster disappointed many when they decided to embargo Olympic coverage, including the opening and closing ceremonies, until Eastern prime time up to 12 hours later. But it got worse when the network had “LIVE” on broadcasts that were clearly hours old. NBC tried to weasel its way out of it, as if there’s some loophole that allows someone to lie about these things.

3. Opening ceremony

Although it looked great, the opening ceremony took some heat when word got out that the little 9-year-old girl singing, Lin Miaoke, was actually lip-syncing a song by less cute 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, a decision that apparently made its way all the way up the political chain of command. Combined with computer-generated animation of fireworks, it prompted the obvious question: What kind of example are we setting for athletes when we’re cheating in the opening ceremonies?

2. Angel Valodia Matos, Cuban taekwondoer

Some have criticized taekwondo as being a sport that looks like fighting but isn’t. Matos might have helped its tough-guy image, but disgraced himself and his country when he kicked a referee in the face after a match filled with controversial calls. After he failed to apologize, Matos and his coach were banned for life from the Olympics.

1. Ara Abrahamian, Swedish wrestler (84kg greco-roman)

Upset over a semifinal match he thought was badly judged and cost him the gold medal, Abrahamian receives his bronze medal during the ceremony and then promptly walks off, throwing his medal to the ground. The IOC took his medal, disqualified him, and handed it to the next guy in line.

UPDATE (Sept. 11): As just about everyone in the world predicted, he’s asking for his medal back.

DiMonte to do noon-hour Q92 show from Calgary

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Corus announced today that Terry DiMonte, the former CHOM morning man who left for Q107 in Calgary because CHOM wasn’t prepared to offer him a long-term contract, will return to Montreal’s airwaves starting Sept. 8 with a noon-hour talk/music show on Q92.

What’s missing from Corus’s press release, and the Presse Canadienne rewriting of it, is that DiMonte isn’t physically returning to Montreal. He’s still hosting his morning show in Calgary. Only now, after his morning shift, he’ll stay in studio and do the Montreal show remotely.

This isn’t the first time that a broadcaster has done “local” programming remotely and tried to fool people (Joe Cannon was famous for it and Global Quebec is introducing it), but the fact that Corus left it out of its press release suggests that their goal is to deliberately mislead Montreal listeners.

Fortunately, I’m relatively confident DiMonte has the moral fortitude not to outright lie to his listeners (saying “here in Montreal” or pretending his weather is the same as ours).

The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein has more.

U.S. conventions live on CPAC

Want the wall-to-wall coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions without all the cable news punditry? CPAC, that channel that covers all those parliamentary committee hearings that if we were good people we’d watch, is simulcasting the C-SPAN coverage of the conventions, starting at 5pm today.

UPDATE: Dear CNN: When you say “convention speeches, unfiltered, uninterrupted”, am I silly in assuming you mean speeches at the convention will be uninterrupted by commercials and unfiltered by your analysis team of political hacks? If not, you’re lying. And that’s especially bad when you put that “unfiltered uninterrupted” graphic on the screen at the very moment you’re interrupting a speaker.

En primeur: TVA to resurrect Vlog

Those of you who follow Dominic Arpin via Facebook already know this, but for the benefit of the less-connected: TVA is bringing back Vlog, its weekly roundup of hot web videos, more than nine months after it aired its last episode, supposedly for good

Vlog was cancelled due to disappointing ratings, though it got screwed by the network and was never really given a chance over its handful of episodes. Not only was it slotted against Tout le monde en parle, but it followed Occupation double, which would almost always run long and push the show back. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the audiences for the two shows were the same, but they weren’t, and people tuning in at 9:30 to watch a show about Internet videos instead saw some stupid reality show about sexy people living together, with no clue when their show would come on.

When it was cancelled, there was talk about an online-only version coming earlier this year to Quebecor’s new website. But for reasons that Arpin promises to explain on his blog by next week when the fall schedule comes out, the network decided to try again to put it back on the air.

Arpin says they’re working on a new format (perhaps going into more depth about featured videos, to deal with some criticism that they’re exploiting them almost to the level of copyright infringement). Details will come about the new format, but the main difference is that Arpin is going solo. Former cohost Geneviève Borne already has a new gig at Belle et Bum on Télé-Québec.

Vlog Season 2 premieres Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9:30 p.m. on TVA.

I hate it already.

UPDATE: Arpin gives some details in a video on his blog. He mentions something about the format being more like a YouTube video blog, with him looking into a camera.

Who cares about senior vice-presidents?

As a person interested in media-related news, I subscribe to a lot of feeds that give information on launches, scandals, flubs, and about 10,000 peoples’ ideas on the future of the newspaper industry.

But I also get a lot of news about executives changing jobs. Like Jon Dube, who left as CBC’s director of digital media to join I understand the CBC writing a little article about it, and Inside the CBC repeating it, but does every news media blog in the universe also have to repeat the story?

First of all, anyone interested in media is going to be subscribed to a bunch of these blogs and is just going to read the same thing over and over again.

Secondly, this news might be more interesting if I knew who Jon Dube was, or what if anything he did at CBC to make him worth my interest.

I have nothing against Dube, and he seems like a great guy, but it’s a bit annoying to see all these rewritten corporate press releases regurgitated as news without any background or analysis, by people who have no idea of the news value of what they’re reporting.

For sale: TATV channel

The channel grid is going to change a bit in the near future. Astral Media announced on Tuesday that its Tout acheter tout vendre specialty TV channel is suspending operations effective immediately (via Steph). Le Soleil rewrites the press release, which notes that 18 full-timers and 10 part-timers are now out of a job.

Needless to say, it’s the Internet that led to the network’s downfall. Putting ad on Craigslist is much cheaper than the $20 it’ll cost to put your old dresser or used car on TV where nobody will see it.

The immediate question is what’s going to happen to that spot on the dial. The station is at channel 12 on Videotron basic cable (despite its low number, the channel is actually among the worst to be assigned to because of interference from the very powerful CFCF transmitter) and channel 27 on Videotron’s Illico.

The network is still running its existing advertisements for clients who have already paid, though it isn’t taking any more listings (even if it’s putting its phone number out over the air and asking people to buy ads).

It’s unclear at this point whether the channel will be released back to cable companies to do reassign as they please or whether Astral will try to do something else with it.

This leaves all-infomercial network Shopping TVA as the last of its kind on the cable dial. Any bets on how long it’ll survive?

OK, now let’s mortgage it for $200


(Full results, including Vancouver and Toronto. Canada and China are the only countries represented by more than one city.)

UPDATE: The loser cities are taking it in stride:

More “clarifications”

Media outlets not used to issuing corrections will tend to want to downplay them. Some (like CTV) will call them “clarifications” even if they’re outright falsehoods, to make it seem less serious.

A similar thing happens at the West Island Chronicle, which issued this “clarification” for an article it printed last week (which is no longer online):

In an article called “Catering to a tinier crowd,” (The Chronicle, Aug. 13, 2008, Back to School p. 3), it was implied that Yummy Tummy Catering will provide individual hot lunches for schoolchildren as well as for larger daycare centre orders. The company will only provide cold lunches for individual order. The article also implied the catering company was told by Lester B. Pearson school board it could go meet with individual schools to see whether or not they could do business with them. However, this was the company’s own initiative. Yummy Tummy can be contacted at 514-967-9318, not the number reported erroneously in the original article. The Chronicle regrets the error.

First of all, there is more than one error here. “Clarification” and “error” should be plural.

The first error says that it was “implied” that the company would provide individual hot lunches. But the article more than implied it:

When Andrea Levy and Stacey Park noticed some of their acquaintances simply did not have the time to prepare food for their children to take to school but did not want to leave them without a home-cooked meal for lunch, they had an idea. … “Not everybody takes part in the hot lunches (provided) at the schools,” explained Levy … The idea is to provide hot lunches to kids who need it at school … Officials at the latter told them they would have to meet with individual schools to find out where hot lunches are provided …

The second and third errors are simple factual errors (bad phone numbers are a common problem, and this one was off by one digit).

This isn’t a clarification, it’s a series of corrections.

Let’s get it right next time, folks.

This is what I love about the Olympics

Yesterday, in the pole vault, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, the undisputed world champion and world-record holder (having beaten her own record numerous times) has eliminated her opponents, including a show-boating American who thought she would kick Russian ass.

Despite already securing the gold medal, she manages to inject some drama into her final vault by attempting a new world record: 5.05 metres, more than 16 1/2 feet. Her first two attempts fail as she brings the bar down with her.

The video above is her third attempt, taken from Russian television (until YouTube is forced to take it down because of the evil Olympic empire). The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs summarizes what happened.

Unlike Michael Phelps, Isinbayeva doesn’t hide her emotions. And it’s so much fun to watch that.

As a bonus: An Adidas “Impossible is Nothing” commercial featuring Isinbayeva.

Beijing Games online coverage analysis

As the halfway mark of the Beijing Games passes, here’s some thoughts on how the major news websites are covering the Olympics with their special Olympics sections. Some have improved on their “road to Beijing” sites since I looked at them a month ago. By now they should have ironed out any kinks.

(Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail provides an analysis of CBC commentators at the games)


The CBC website is a class above all the others, as well it should be since they have the broadcast rights.

Naturally, there’s plenty of video, including most importantly live video feeds from various events. Unfortunately, they’ve Windows Media and never worked for me properly, making them kind of useless. The schedule is tied to broadcasts, which means you don’t get the schedule for individual events and races. Items in the schedule also aren’t linked to more information about them or lists of Canadians who will be participating.

The “Higher Faster Stronger” page has video profiles of athletes, but they’re not sorted in any useful way. The videos themselves are also pretty uninteresting. The athletes give one-liners saying where they’re from and what sport they play, and then finish off with meaningless inspirational statements like “I refuse to let fear dictate my actions”

Medal standings page allows you to sort by G/S/B and total medals. Each country also links to pages showing who won medals for that country.

There’s also a blogs page with blogs from both Olympic athletes and CBC personalities.

What’s unique: Mandarin-language video highlights for each day of competition, special iPhone-friendly page.

Bottom line: This is everyone’s first destination for Olympics news. It does what it’s supposed to do well, but there’s definite room for improvement.

The Gazette/

(Disclaimer: I work for The Gazette, though I had nothing to do with its Beijing website)

Canwest Interactive created a Beijing Games portal which has been copied for reuse by all Canwest papers. Stories are updated automatically on all websites without individual papers having to deal with them. With the exception of some local pointers to paper-specific pieces, all the websites are identical.

The design is visually appealing. The main feature is a “photo of the moment,” which cycles between four recent photos. While it looks good, it also pushes the main story downpage, so visitors have to scroll down to find out the biggest story. The photos are also not linked to the Olympic events they feature, so even though the main photo might be of a Canadian athlete winning a gold medal, clicking on it won’t get you the story of how awesome that was. You have to scroll down to find it.

URLs are unfortunately excessively long. Though the papers provide shortcuts, they disappear the moment you put them in, which doesn’t aid in memory retention. The Gazette’s Olympic homepage is at

The stories almost all originate from Canwest News Service. On one hand this is good, because you want to promote your own stories (the wires have hundreds of Olympic stories running every day). On the other hand, it means every story has a Canadian angle. Unless a columnist writes a story about Michael Phelps or other non-Canadian athletes, the stories won’t appear here.

There are separate sections for each sport, which include stories, (some) athlete profiles, schedules and results, all copied from the Beijing database.

Though Canwest has been making a big effort online for these Games (even sending an online editor to Beijing), a lot of the content clearly seems to have been destined more for newspapers than websites. This list of Canadians to watch, for example, is horribly formatted, includes no times and no links for more information on these athletes or their events.

There are news videos and animations of event rules, but both are provided pre-packaged by Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Same with things like medal standings.

There are some mistakes that make a perfectionist cringe. “Mens” and “Womens” aren’t words, for example. And clicking on “schedule” gives the schedule for Day 1 instead of the current day (and unless you remember that it’s Day 11 you have to guess at what the current schedule is).

Finally, it includes a trivia “game” with questions such as this:

Why not just say "Please select answer C"?

Why not just say "Please select answer C"?

What’s unique: Little separates the sites from other similar ones, but the stories, which are the most important, are Canwest-produced.

Bottom Line: All in all, a good effort, and good copy from Canwest’s journalists, but a bit too reliant on repackaging non-story information from other sources.

Globe and Mail

Homepage looks good, with a main story and matching main photo (like most websites, you’ll notice their layout requires horizontal photos). Design for medal counts/results is also sleek, with circular cropped flags (rectangles are so 2004).

A proper schedule page (with times and everything), but no indication there what events feature Canadians, which is what we want to know.

It includes a podcast page, which apparently nobody at the Globe looked at because the thumbnail images next to audio links are actually 6 megapixel images (over a megabyte in size) that the browser has to download in order to shrink to 1,000th of the size. The latest podcast is now four days old, and is just a series of interviews with Globe writers in Beijing. No interviews with athletes or audio of anything even remotely interesting. (There are athlete interviews like this one, but those are linked to from different pages

URLs are simple, short and sensical. for the main page. The boxing page is at, as you would expect. URLs for individual stories, however, follow the standard Globe template and are far too long.

Stories are provided from eight Globe journalists in Beijing, but most comes from Canadian Press/Associated Press, and little to no time is spent formatting stories for the web.

What’s unique: “Games on the Box“, a blog about TV coverage (mainly from the CBC and NBC).

Bottom Line: In many ways, the Globe has led Canadian media in its approach to online, in terms of design and ideas. Audio interviews, podcasts and blogs certainly shows that. But this website is a pretty big disappointment from Canada’s national newspaper. I expected better.


A repackaging of Canadian Press content along with some videos produced for CTV National News and Canada AM. A joke of a website that I won’t dignify with a review. This is from the people who are going to bring our TV coverage of the 2010 games in Vancouver?

Toronto Star

A nice homepage with a simple URL ( You have to dig a bit to get pages for individual sports, and results pages for those sports are nothing but (badly) rebranded pre-packaged pages from The Sports Network. Medals page (from CP) allows you to sort by total (ascending and descending), but in order to sort by gold you have to click on “POS”.

There’s a videos page with a mix of Torstar and CP-produced videos (sadly you don’t find out which is which until the video starts). Instead of simply being embedded on the page, clicking on a video brings a video browser in a pop-up window (and then doesn’t show the browser part). It’s more hoops than should be necessary here.

Schedule page provides a list of what sports are on what days, and clicking those sports gives a schedule for that sport on that day. Very good. But no hints at sports with Canadians in them, and there’s no general page with a schedule for all sports on a certain day.

What’s unique: There’s a Star-produced Olympic history timeline, and an interesting “in Chinese” page, with content provided by Sing Tao newspapers. The best part is probably the Athletes page, which lists all the athletes and provides pages for each one. Those pages include the standard CP biography plus links to stories that mention the athlete. It’s simple yet elegant.

Bottom line: It’s not perfect, but a very impressive effort from a single newspaper without the mega Canwest or Sun Media empires behind it. (Quebecor/Sun Media)

URL is simple but needlessly repetitive:

The events page is called “Events”, “Disciplines” or “Sports”, depending on whether you look at the URL, the navigation bar or the page title. The individual pages there are needlessly gray, and the content provided entirely by AFP. (The country flags, where used, look like they were designed by three-year-olds using MS Paint).

Schedule page (also provided by AFP) distinguishes between competition and finals, but otherwise provides no details.

Athletes page sorts by publication date, not by name or sport, which kind of makes it useless.

What’s unique: a “comments” page, where people can give their opinion on controversial Olympics issues, like whether Quebec flags should be allowed there.

Bottom line: Far too reliant on AFP and other wire copy. No reason to choose this site over any other.

Cyberpresse (La Presse)

Page is the kind of boxy layout you come to expect from Cyberpresse. Main difference is that it includes a bunch of Flash-based widgets from Presse Canadienne which slow down page loading.

The URL is short but non-intuitive (like all Cyberpresse pages), with sections called “CPPEKIN01”, “CPPEKIN02”, etc.

Athletes page doesn’t include a list of athletes, but a list of profiles sorted by publication date.

There are separate sections for athletics, “acquatic sports”, gynmastics and “other” instead of having one for each discipline. (The “other” page includes “team sports” “racquet sports” “combat sports” and “other” — how insulting is it to be on the “other” “other” page?)

Schedule page is very basic, with times but no other information

What’s unique: A photo album from La Presse photographer Bernard Brault.

Bottom line: Not much to write home about. There are good stories here republished from the paper, but the website design is severely lacking.

Le Devoir

No Olympics website to speak of. A single page includes wire stories that were printed in the paper. Epic fail.

Don’t mess with the readers

A couple of weeks ago, the faxes at the Gazette were more active than usual. A letter came in, in ALL-CAPS RAGE format, which took issue with the paper’s decision to streamline the TV Times listings booklet that comes in Saturday’s paper:









The fax (who uses faxes anymore, anyway?) was followed by others, hand-written like they were ransom notes:









Those faxes were resent at a rate of one a minute for over an hour before the faxes were shut off to avoid wasting any more paper. Over 50 faxes that powers that be will never see (unless they read this blog), and which won’t change anything.

But it served as a reminder that despite all the times I hear “I don’t read The Gazette” when I talk to people my age about it, there are plenty of people in an older age group who take the paper very seriously (and think their news judgment is vastly superior to everyone else’s).

Another reminder came as I started hearing (and reading) comments from readers who heard about the paper’s plans to make the Monday paper “more compact” like Sunday’s through a survey the paper commissioned. They’re almost universally opposed to the idea, and most took the time to complain that the Sunday paper needed to be fixed by adding more content and splitting up the sections again (currently it’s in two sections, the second being sports and classified).

The Gazette is also considering cutting the width of the paper by 2.5 inches, in order to make it more convenient to use as well as to save money on newsprint. (Considering how much I read the paper on public transit, any size reduction – provided the content stays the same – is welcome in my book).

A lot of people think they have better ideas on how to spend the paper’s money. More sports, less sports, more analysis, less analysis, longer articles, shorter articles, more hard news, more lifestyle features. Others simply demand the paper spend more money until it goes bankrupt.

I’m just glad they care.