Swollen With Pride By The Olympics' Opening Ceremony? Not So Much

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Leave it to NBC commentators Bob Costas And Matt Lauer to pump up the volume, asserting that Canadians would surely “swell with pride” at having the Olympics in Vancouver.

We  — my Dad, visiting from Toronto — watched the opening ceremonies last night, quite prepared to be awed and moved and a little weepy. Instead, we all went to bed early, an hour before they ended.

Sad enough was the death of the young Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and the somber faces and black armbands of his fellow athletes made a stark contrast to the joy of the other delegations. But the performances, dancing, music and lighting — $40 million worth (10 percent of what was spent for the stunning Beijing opening ceremonies) — were a definite disappointment, at least to us two cynical Canadians. My Dad and I were both born in Vancouver, and he grew up there, so we’ve certainly got some emotional ties to the place.

The emphasis on the First Nations, while adding plenty of sparkle and feathers and drums, was as politically correct as it could possibly get. It also neatly sidestepped the larger, ongoing Canadian issue — what the hell is a Canadian? It’s a nation of immigrants, like the U.S., but 100 years younger, a nation that only got its very own flag in 1965 and one in which the “cultural mosaic” (keep your own traditions and language) trumps the American ideal of the “melting pot.” If not the First Nations, who, then, would represent Canada and all it stands for? Free health care? Great beer?

I did tear up, briefly, as the snowboarder shot down a mountain through a red maple leaf composed of flare-holding by-standers. The aurora borealis projected on the enormous fabric centerpiece was magical. But having hundreds of dancers was lost in the enormous scale of the stadium. Sarah Mclachlan was hidden (why?) behind a glossy white piano and even Nikki Yanofsky, whose singing I’ve blogged about here, didn’t do much with her rendition of “Oh, Canada.”

The guy in the canoe, playing a fiddle, was meant to represent Quebec. Not for me. The tattooed guy tap-dancing, his Mohawk swinging with effort? Meh.

Maybe it really is impossible to represent an entire country, even if it’s got the population — 30 million — of New York State.

I wanted to swell, really. Truth is, Canadians aren’t big on pomp and ceremony. We’d rather just go out and — as Costas did get right — kick some butt. Let the Games begin.

Checkbook Journalism, David Goldman And The Brazilian 'Rescue' — Should Sources Be Paid?

Society of Professional Journalists
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Here’s a wrist-slap from the Society of Professional Journalists:

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee is appalled NBC News breached widely accepted ethical journalism guidelines by providing the plane that carried David Goldman and his son Sean back to the United States from Brazil after a high-profile custody battle.

NBC conducted an exclusive interview with David Goldman during the flight it financed and another exclusive interview once the Goldmans returned to the United States.

Journalists know this practice as “checkbook journalism.”

The SPJ Code of Ethics urges journalists to act independently by avoiding bidding for news and by avoiding conflicts of interest.

By making itself part of a breaking news story on which it was reporting — apparently to cash in on the exclusivity assured by its expensive gesture — NBC jeopardized its journalistic independence and credibility in its initial and subsequent reports. In effect, the network branded the story as its own, creating a corporate and promotional interest in the way the story unfolds. NBC’s ability to report the story fairly has been compromised by its financial involvement.

“The public could rightly assume that NBC News bought exclusive interviews and images, as well as the family’s loyalty, with an extravagant gift,” Ethics Committee Chairman Andy Schotz said.

The news media’s duty is to report news, not help create it. The race to be first should not involve buying — directly or indirectly — interviews, an unseemly practice that raises questions of neutrality, integrity and credibility.

“Mixing financial and promotional motives with an impartial search for truth stains honest, ethical reporting,” Schotz said. “Checkbook journalism has no place in the news business.”

Selling your story to the highest bidder is standard practice in Britain. Journalists  — who, if they are not handsomely rewarded personally, help their parent organizations reap viewers/readers and ad revenue by snagging and riding the hottest stories — routinely refuse to pay sources. That’s just how it’s done in the U.S. and in Canada, even if the person being interviewed is destitute.

It does create an unwinnable “arms race” when a large media organization with very deep pockets can, literally, spirit away the key figure in a breaking international story. But, as we all know, life’s not fair and the media business remains ever more competitive.

What do you think?