When self-promotion squeezes out real news
September 27, 2011 – It’s the day after Hockeyville, but the headache lingers on. CBC Radio is still gushing about it this morning. And there was no Here & Now last night – it was pre-empted by the game itself – so you can be sure they’ll be milking it again tonight, 24 hours later.
Now, I’m not saying there is no news value in the CBC Kraft Hockeyville story. The townspeople of Conception Bay South (CBS) did win a national contest, after all. They have every right to be proud of themselves. And some media attention to this story is warranted.
Note: I said “some”.
Because CBC has milked this story to excess.
I was growing weary of Hockeyville even in the weeks leading up to the big day. CBC promoted it heavily, not pausing to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, the people of this province already had top-of-mind awareness of Hockeyville and fully intended to follow events on that day.
But yesterday, it went completely over the top. The vast majority of programming on the CBC Radio Morning Show, Radio Noon and On The Go was devoted to Hockeyville. It must have been a challenge to come up with new angles on “the big league comes to town” story and they certainly gave it their best shot. Frankly, I was bored by most of it.
I am not a rabid hockey fan, but I accept that sports is part of the news mix.
Note: I said “part”.
Hockeyville completely dominated the agenda, on a day when other things were happening, including an election.
Some people, and perhaps the CBC themselves, will defend this coverage, saying that it was a big local story, with a great human interest component.
But I say “nonsense” to that. There was a story there, but it was overplayed.
Let’s look at what happened here. The residents and supporters of the town of CBS won a national contest, by voting online or on the phone. It required a great deal of patience and perseverance, but certainly did not tax anyone’s skill or intelligence, or place anyone in any immediate danger or discomfort.
The top prize was $100,000 to upgrade the local arena, a pre-season NHL hockey game, and a CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcast from the winning community.
Yeah, it’s an okay prize. But does it merit the saturation coverage we heard yesterday on CBC? Absolutely not. It’s part of the mix, yes, and would certainly merit a block of coverage in each of the day’s shows.
However, it did not rule the agenda because of its merit as a news story. (If NTV had sponsored Hockeyville, or if CBC was not directly involved, their coverage would have been much more restrained.)
No, the coverage of Hockeyville was driven by CBC’s own involvement, as presenting sponsor. Which means this was not coverage of a news story – it was an orgy of self-promotion.
I had tuned out the noise by midday yesterday. And today, I am left with a Hockeyville hangover that is not, I am sure, what the sponsors had wanted or intended.