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Thank media for the riot that never was
April 1, 2009, 7:29 AM
Filed under: TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

It’s never particularly appreciated by the media when one of its own criticizes its performance.

After all, covering the news accurately is a difficult job that has been made more difficult over the last decade by rapid cutbacks throughout the industry.

But this week, we saw an example in Canada of what happens when media jump on the opportunity to sell a story without regard to facts or balance.

It’s a story of alleged hooliganism. The reality, however, is that the only beating handed out last weekend in relation to said hooliganism was to the truth, and the assailants used keyboards.

Last weekend, Canada’s sole Major League Soccer team travelled to a game in Columbus, Ohio. As in 2008, Toronto FC brought as many as 2,000 fans with them; soccer is a growing and passionate sport.

Of course, not everyone among that 1,500 is sensible . Supporters of both teams drank too much, got into fights and three were arrested. Far from extraordinary, this can happen at any sports venue serving alcohol on any weekend.

However, instead of having a decent plan to keep two groups of antagonistic fans separate after the game, the venue let them out together – into the waiting arms of Columbus riot police, who among other concerns allegedly sped through heavily congested areas in squad cars and maced sections of the crowd who had nothing to do with any skirmishes.

This was not a riot. If anyone thinks it was, they’ve never seen the real thing. This was a few individuals – maybe even a few dozen – being drunken fools. With nearly 15,000 people at the game, that’s no statistically different than an average tilt between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.

There was also some exceedingly minor stadium damage. If you talk to both sides in the debate over the “misbehaviour” it comes down to a section of tin bleacher seats being badly dented by celebrating fans jumping up and down on them, and one railing being tossed onto the top of a tent – a railing which, according to some of those who removed it, was already falling apart.

Yes, the idiots who later tossed it onto the tent below deserve to be barred. No, it wasn’t all 1,500 Toronto visitors. But it would’ve been hard to tell that reading their hometown press’s coverage of the event, which near- universally vilified Toronto tourists as hooligans.

Never mind that 90% of the reporters doing the criticizing weren’t even at the event.

Don’t worry that many of them quoted anonymous newsgroup postings from people attending as their “facts” without bothering to counterbalance, or consider context, or look for unbiased observers – or even find out their sources’ real names.

And put it completely out of your mind that it’s unfair to smear the 99% who didn’t get involved.

Why should you ignore those facts, as most covering this issue chose to do? Well, because soccer hooliganism makes a good story on a slow day. That’s why.

The fact that it didn’t happen that way, as is increasingly the case when the cut-to-the-bone media industry reports on a major event, is just yesterday’s news.

There’s a lesson in this story to those who think news can be produced for next to nothing: if you’re not actually at the event and your staff is substandard due to low pay and cutbacks, they will get the story wrong.

Eventually, that costs readers and money. That will be the inevitable consequence of an entire industry trying to cut to the bone: eventually, the only people left doing the jobs are the boneheads.

Source: Click Here

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