“It was driven by a petulance and frustration, and it had the tone of a president with an approval rating of 35 per cent. He’s sounding less statesmanlike when he needs to seem more.”
— Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio
Now, I’ll admit I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan, but I do work for a newspaper with a sports section and even I’d be hard-pressed not to notice how closely we cover the St. John’s IceCaps.
Heck, so much ink gets spilled on hockey here, we’ve even had folks complain that we seem to think it’s the only game in town.
I don’t think that criticism is fair, but I get their point.
Hockey — and, specifically IceCaps hockey — tends to dominate our sports section.
And that’s a direct reflection of the team’s popularity with our readers. That’s the way things should be.
So if the letter to the editor had been written by anyone else than former premier Danny Williams, I might have been surprised by the recent criticism of our IceCaps coverage.
But we’re talking Danny Williams, so the petulance is more or less expected.
Williams’ letter ran in our paper on May 25, and I certainly respect his right to express his opinion. That’s what the op/ed section of the paper is for, and we love to hear from readers — so keep those cards and letters coming.
Williams berated our sports editor, Robin Short, for what Williams perceived to be negative commentary on the IceCaps’ last game of the season, which the team lost.
He said he was disappointed, and that Short’s piece was “grossly unfair” and had glaring omissions.
Anyone who’s ever met Robin Short knows he is more than capable of defending himself and his professional reputation, so that’s not why I’m writing this.
I’m writing this because Danny Williams’ letter is astonishing in its naiveté.
Williams is a smart man and has been around the block. And yet his skin has clearly not grown any thicker since he left politics. Nor has his desire to micro-manage been diminished.
But here’s the thing: even the mighty Danny Williams can’t control the media. He can lambaste it. He can call journalists’ reputations into disrepute. But he cannot shape the way the news — or sports — is reported, particularly in a column.
In his letter, Williams repeats the word “failure” throughout to emphasize his opinion that our coverage was lacking. It’s a writing tool quite popular with politicians and evangelists and the like.
Let’s try it out ourselves.
Williams’ letter is a failure in that it neglects to acknowledge that Robin Short is an award-winning sports writer with more than two decades of experience who is certainly qualified to write insightful commentary about hockey players’ abilities.
Ironically, the IceCaps president and CEO’s slap-down of Short came hot on the heels of Short’s winning an Atlantic Journalism Award for his coverage of — you guessed it — the IceCaps.
Williams’ letter is a failure if he thought it would bolster his image as a business leader, hockey champion and former statesman, because instead he comes across as a spoiled kid who’s mad because he didn’t get his own way.
Williams’ letter is a failure because it says far more about his arrogance and presumptuousness than it does about any perceived failing of Short’s.
Does he seriously think the role of a sports writer is to reach for the pompoms and trot out a cheerleading routine for the home team?
Give me a break. Danny Williams is far smarter than that.
The problem is, his inner spite-cat has more sway than his clear-thinking, rational side.
Robin Short’s job, in this case, was to provide his analysis of the game and the team’s performance. Period.
Williams wrote that Short failed “to mention the outstanding performances of players … who delivered on and off the ice all season with their outstanding skill, leadership and community involvement.”
But it isn’t Short’s duty to say what swell guys and community heroes the players are, nor to write glowing press releases to be vetted by team management.
And the aspects of the team’s performance he chose to write about and the words he decided to employ are entirely his prerogative — just as the words Williams used were his own.
It’s called freedom of the press and it works both ways.
Reading the letter, I couldn’t help but remember a similar tirade from Williams when someone else said something that he construed as being negative.
“We don’t need that kind of pessimism and crap coming out of your mouth in the mornings, I can tell you right now.”
Remember that comment, from June 2009?
His target then was radio talk-show host Randy Simms, who had dared to muse aloud about the province’s strategy for troubled areas of the economy, like the fishery and forestry.
There’s room in the world — and this province — for more than one point of view.
Surely, Mr. Williams, it’s time to set aside this, “If-you-ain’t-for-us-you’re-agin-us” mentality.
It does not become you.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at