Doing my job through an objective lens

Love is in the air.
A recent phone conversation I had the privilege of being subjected to last week might help explain why this town burns through reporters, particularly of the sports variety, faster than GM uses up government bailout money.
A “friendly” caller decided to give me a profanity-laced tirade over a comment I made in an article in last week’s paper.
Rewind to the article regarding the Muskie girls’ hockey team, where I wrote: “off-ice issues—including the infamous pow-wow video that surfaced on the Internet last year—seemed to affect the squad’s on-ice success.”
In 2008, when the incident occurred, on-ice suspensions resulted and it hurt the team’s chances in the playoffs.
Ultimately, not having those players more than likely was the difference in the playoffs, so I think I was well within my jurisdiction to make that comment.
This gentleman, whose daughter was involved in the making of the video, decided to have his displeasure known over my mention of this event.
The story was meant to wipe the slate clean—hence the “starting fresh” reference in the headline—but it was construed to suggest I was picking at an old wound.
On one hand, I can see where this gentleman was coming from.
In our “American Idol” society, you really have to watch yourself everywhere for fear a disparaging video clip might turn up on “YouTube” or an inopportune photo might surface on “Facebook.”
And things that aren’t meant to be directly offensive can be misinterpreted and sensationalized as a result. I get that.
I wasn’t living here at the time to fully comprehend the backlash over the video, and I’m sure it negatively affected the lives of the girls involved and their families.
A chain reaction then started, proving that it’s not just ’flu strains that can go viral.
But some truly positive developments have grown out of it. Construction of the new pow-wow grounds at Manitou Rapids was a direct off-shoot of the incident, and this was mentioned in a story entitled “New pow-wow grounds taking shape” published back in February.
The story described the pow-wow grounds as a “silver lining” to the video.
“Because that video last year, it hurt a lot of people, but at the same time, look with what we’re building,” Rainy River First Nations’ education counsellor Marcel Horton had said at the time.
I can’t control how people interpret what I write. I simply mentioned this incident—which obviously remains well-known publicly. I didn’t say whether it was right or wrong—that’s not for me to decide.
I don’t see how my one sentence is going to bring all this hatred back to the forefront. It’s better to have people move on and learn from it than to bottle it up inside and brush it under the rug.
I sometimes forget I’m writing about people’s teenage sons and daughters here, and parents will side with their kids irrationally no matter the circumstances. I get that, as well.
But herein lies the problem.
A negative drawback of covering sports here is the fact that city-calibre reporting is expected—with teams featured extensively on and off the ice or field or court, with lots of copy needed on a weekly basis. But the smalltown stigma is very real, with an increased likelihood that someone might get offended by what I write.
If a player, for example, turns over the puck that leads to a goal, I will write it how I see it. I can understand how the parent of that child might take it the wrong way.
But objective reporting is a necessary component of any news medium, and I’m not about to censor myself to prevent someone’s feelings from being hurt.
And this isn’t a poke at Fort Frances, either. For every negative bit of feedback I receive (and I do have a thick skin, it’s OK), there are many more positive comments and I really do appreciate that.
But I’m not going to respond to a verbal attack, and you most definitely aren’t going to intimidate me.
Sometimes the fish bowl gets to me, but I’ll just keep covering sports through an objective lens. And if you don’t like it, so be it.
• • •
My apologies to Melanie Scott, who I failed to mention in the Muskie girls’ preview story last week.
The Grade 11 student is a returning player who will bolster the blueliners on this year’s team.

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