Media Manipulation: Narrative Vs Reality

Ah the big bad media… Listening to beat following the Montreal Canadiens, they’re the best in the business. You don’t believe it? Just ask them, they’ll tell you. Just like Habs’ fans are the self-proclaimed most knowledgeable fans in hockey, many members of the media following the Canadiens feel the same way. The Habs being a passion with a huge fan base, the number of Twitter followers, or fans praising their work gets to the head of some of them, providing support and justification for the work they do.

The 80-20 rule

But like in anything else, you can apply the 80-20 rule. Twenty percent of them are the cream of the crop. They rely on their skills, the quality of their work, to get readership, viewership and listenership. You know who they are as their stories are interesting, researched and factual. More often than not, they will tell both sides of the story. No manipulation or personal opinion is being pushed. The other eighty percent range from average to mediocre and in order to keep up with the top 20% for their “fair share” of relevance, they will have to go to great lengths to find other ways to gain attention.

Here’s an example. We have a reporter from a Montreal newspaper who likes to follow former Habs and tweet about them, but only when they’re doing well. He did it with PK Subban for a while, but when PK’s game went down the drain, he stopped. Now, he’s posting every time Jesperi Kotkaniemi has a good game. His flavour of the moment is to show how many goals KK has and compare his production to the current Canadiens. We all know how dishonest that is, as there is no way Kotkaniemi would have those numbers under this year’s circumstances on the Habs.

Cowan knows too well that neither Danault or KK would have that kind of production in Montreal. This is completely ill intent but he will hide behind “stating facts”. It’s a lame attempt at making the Canadiens look bad. No other reason for such tweets.

“Oh I can make my own mind without the media,” fans will claim. Yes, yes you absolutely can. But you will listen and seek the media who agree and support your views, who fit the narrative or YOUR truth. And that, regardless if they’re true or not, incomplete and non-factual. You, as a fan, will brush off any media who says the opposite of what you believe to be true.

Controversy sells

You don’t believe it? Why would some local newspaper give a platform to a show business sensationalist and extremist, providing him a hockey column about the Canadiens? Why would they tolerate someone like that to spew his unsupported hater towards people in the organisation that they make a living on without requesting factual journalism? Because controversy sells. Because they cannot compete, quality and talent-wise, with some of the top. Because they’re fighting to stay “relevant”, or generating enough revenue, and controversy is the only way they will achieve that. And they’re not alone…

One of the most controversial individuals in decades still has work and is still invited by local radio stations to give his tainted opinion on different topics around the Canadiens. Yet, nothing is ever positive. It’s always controversial, putting down the organisation that once, decades ago, dared telling him that he couldn’t use the Canadiens’ colours for his TV series. You know who I’m talking about.

Recent example

Now, there are a few reporters who didn’t like Marc Bergevin because the Canadiens’ GM wasn’t afraid of putting them on the spot when they tried to trap or corner him. You can bet that they will praise Kent Hughes and the new management at any chance. You can recognize them as they will compare to Bergevin. That will last for a while, until they find things to complain about on the new management team… and history has shown that they will.

Just recently, we had an example of that kind of behaviour… and I hate using Luc because for many years, he’s been great. But recently, most notably since Chantal Machabée left RDS, he is coming across as a more bitter person. Maybe he’s going through his own personal struggles, as he’s usually a very level-headed guy. Nonetheless, it’s an example of the behaviour, the person and in this case, it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the journalist himself.

The story was taken by TVA Sports after, and a few other media outlets. You see, now that Bergevin is gone, he can’t do anything to those disgruntled (yet guilty) parties in the media. They feel safe and will use their platform to spit their venom to exert their revenge.

Yet in this example, as a fan, I remember in the past 10 years several occasions where former Canadiens were invited… This is only yet another example of the Montreal media manipulation. They will search and find people who are dissatisfied and will run the story without showing both sides.

Also, Patrice Brisebois was hired by Bergevin, along with Martin Lapointe, to oversee the development of young Habs’ prospects. A few years later, Brisebois was fired and Lapointe was promoted. The two men were replaced by Rob Ramage and Francis Bouillon. Since then, it seems like the player development is doing better.

So Luc (and others in the media), Bergevin does have his faults. But to quote disgruntled former employees like Brisebois or Stéphane Waite is a reach at best. Spare us, fans, the sob stories. Many of us can see right though the smoke screen…

Focus on the good ones

How can we, fans, navigate through this if only 20% is worth reading, listening to or following? I’ll admit, it’s easier said than done. I mean, when the majority is trying to sway you in one direction, it would be easier to just “go with the flow”, wouldn’t it be? But remember… only dead fish swim with the flow. And dead fish stink!

The best way to deal with those people is to ignore them. Don’t even acknowledge them as many of them rely on our reaction to gain momentum and generate even more interest. They want us to talk about them. They want the clicks on their websites. They want to see fans divided and debate on those senseless topics, so they tune in to listen, to buy their memberships to get read. Ignoring them will diminish the interest in their sub-par work.

Following positivity does not mean being fanboys of the team. There are plenty of things you can disagree with when it comes to the Canadiens and that’s okay. But to only focus on that is where it’s wrong. Your life will be better when you try focussing on the more positive aspect of hockey, our passion. Soon, perhaps you will be able to apply those skills to your personal life, if you’re not already doing so. Shake off the constant negativity and choose to see the positive. You will be the biggest winner in all of this. I encourage you to have a read of something that I wrote a while back for Habs Tonight, about Habsitivity.

Here’s a little montage, slideshow, that I call “Narrative vs Reality”. Enjoy…

More reading…

Media Relationship: It’s Complicated

Prospects Flying Under the Radar by Bob Trask

Glory At All Costs! by Marc-André Breault