Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Canadian Press : wake-up, please.

April 16, 2006

A few weeks back when I started kicking FSWC and the CRTC, I promised to start taking a few whacks at the Canadian Press later.

Now is as good a time as any. It's great to see the publicity that newspapers like the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail have recently mentioned about FSWC's failure to live up to the conditions of their broadcast licence.

But what equally galls me is that rugby in Canada -- a nation that gets a vote at the IRB table to determine hosting bid for the Rugby World Cup, which is more of a privilege than the United States receives -- gets dick-all respect from the Canadian Press.

The Canadian Press stylebook is the bible of form and style in every newspaper in Canada. The stylebook was first published in 1940.

The most recent edition is The Canadian Press stylebook : a guide for writers and editors / Patti Tasko, editor. – 13th ed. (2004).

Here's their entry about rugby:

Canadian Press stylebook

The type is small and may be difficult to read, as I wanted to show the entire page and provide context how CP presumes rugby is less important than rowing or sailing -- and that's just on a single page! It gets worse when you look through all their sports listings. Just so you know, under the header "Rugby" here's CP's entire listing:


1. Carry scores on international matches only.

2. Use a bare scores result format. List the home team first in international matches.

That’s it.

Does CP even know Canada has a national rugby program? Does CP know Canada participates in the World Cup? Does CP even know Canada gets the same number of IRB RWC votes as does Italy -- a member of the Six Nations?

It's time for CP to wake up and join the 21st century. It's perfectly understandable that if Canadian Press marginalizes Rugby Union and doesn't know jackshit about the differences between Union and League codes and can't tell whether the game is supposed to be played by 7 or 10 or 13 or 15 players, then Canadian journalists and the public are going to be equally uninformed and clueless about the sport.

C'mon CP -- what say you? Get with the program already.

UPDATE no.1 (Tues. Apr. 18): Neil Davidson, the General Sports Editor at Canadian Press took offense at my slapdown and wrote to straighten me out.

Davidson schools me:

"CP moves scores, standings and stories on all major internationals, from the Six Nations to Tri-Nations. We move scores, standings and stories on the Super 14 competition. We cover all of Canada's national teams, including sevens. I myself went to France and more recently Australia to cover Canada at the World Cup.

"We move Associated Press copy on world rugby.

"And we covered Canada's role in the voting process surrounding the World Cup, something you cited while incorrectly saying that rugby gets "dick-all respect from the Canadian Press."

"I would put CP's rugby coverage up against any news outlet in Canada or North America.

"No doubt you will want to correct your inaccurate assumptions about CP and rugby in a future column. Here at CP, we celebrate the sport. Why not write about that?"

Neil Davidson

I responded to Mr. Davidson, thanking him for his feedback and promising to make note of his corrections and clarifications (as above). I don't deny CP has covered rugby, and in fact I did read Davidson's reports from the past World Cup. So, fair game there.

My beef is with that Stylebook. That's what I am directing my "dick-all respect" comment, and I stand by that.

I have spoken to at least three daily newspapers in Ontario that subscribe to CP why their newspapers don't provide rugby coverage. They point at the CP Stylebook that tells them "international scores only" -- which they list on the scores & stats page -- and routinely take a pass on features or wire service news bulletins about rugby. I understand space is limited in newspapers and editors have to make decisions; more often than not that Stylebook makes the distinction and decision for them.

This is what I am hearing from sports editors. I went to my local library and looked at the most recent edition of the Stylebook, photocopied, scanned and quoted verbatim what it says. I don't deny CP and Mr. Davidson do a good job. And I can see perfectly well where he'd be pissed at me for defaming the good creative work his department produces. I have no intention of impugning that.

Again, it is the entry under "Rugby" in that Stylebook on the desk of virtually every news editor in Canada that ticks me off, because those editors use that Guide for advice and direction. And any reasonable editor or copywriter that reads the guidelines in that book can only deduce that the sport of rugby has no business in the newspapers of Canada beyond "international scores only." As a hardcore fan that supports and defends the sport of rugby union in Canada, I'd have to be a simpering moron to not be offended by that. But that's just me.

UPDATE no.2 (Tues. Apr. 18): Where Neil Davidson re-replies:

"It's good to know CP wields such influence. But in truth, it is ridiculous to say that sports editors decide what to carry because of the Style Book. It's simply inaccurate.

"We will remove the reference in the SB to carrying major international scores only, since it does not reflect what we do. Feel free to get back to me on how the change improves the newspaper play the sport gets.

"Bottom line is CP provides extensive rugby coverage. More than any other major outlet in Canada. I look forward to you writing about that -- and the "good job" we do. Although I am unsure how that jives with our supposed lack of respect for the sport."


Naturally sports editors have more autonomy and discretion than anything the CP Stylebook directs them. They are obviously not hogtied to those guidelines. But I suspect most sports editors in Canada are as clueless about Rugby Union as I am about the differences between Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists -- which is to say most can't tell you the difference between 7s, Union, League, Aussie Rules, the lot. From firsthand anecdotal evidence over years of experience, I have seen numerous occasions where copyeditors and section editors routinely use that "guide-book" for "guidance."

I can see where Mr. Davidson is peeved at me, completely understandable. He does do a good job -- possibly even, as he says, without equal in North America -- and rightly-or-wrongly believes that I have dismissed that work out-of-hand. My apologies.

But hey-- if Davidson really does get the Sylebook to change their "Rugby" entry for future editions, I'll stick a feather in my cap and thank him personally.

UPDATE no.3 (Tues. Apr. 18): Davidson confirms:

"The Style Book editor has already agreed to change the entry."

Thank you Mr. Davidson. Cheers mate!


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