Gardezi v. Courier, or Is lingerie football journalism possible?
Welcome to Journo Court! Your chance to finally weigh in on the most pressing issues of the day and squabbles between journalists! Oh and lingerie football is involved!
Today, we present to you:
Shella Gardezi vs. The Vancouver Courier
Anyhow, to avoid editorializing and getting my face torn off (again), I’ll present the case in chronological order
As mentioned in a previous post, Vancouver Courier reporter Megan Stewart has tried out, and apparently made, the first B.C. entry into the Lingerie Football League.
On June 8, 2012, the Courier ran a front-page article by Stewart about the league and her part in it.
The Lingerie Football League (LFL) puts its assets where you can’t possibly miss them. The longhaired sentinels pose on the official LFL football, a junior-sized pigskin also adorned with the signature of league commissioner Mitchell Mortaza. He concedes the ploy to present and dress athletes provocatively is “a gimmick” and wards off criticism the LFL is sexist, demeaning exploitation by saying critics haven’t tuned in to watch.
Details such as the sexualized imagery on the game ball keep me skeptical, even cynical, about the LFL, a doggedly determined sports entertainment venture with 12 active teams in the U.S., not counting five that folded or were suspended after a brief existence. Now with four Canadian teams, the league is spurred on by bullish ambition to expand around the globe and stage a World Bowl in Brazil in 2014.
She doesn’t shy away from the sketchy aspects of the league.
In its inaugural season last summer, the Toronto Triumph collapsed as 22 of 26 players quit the team, according to Yahoo! Sports Canada sportswriter Andrew Bucholtz, a critic of the LFL who reported leaked emails between Mortaza and disgruntled players. Players said they feared for their safety, claiming unskilled coaches were not teaching proper technique. They said Mortaza was arrogant. In turn, Mortaza questioned players’ motivation, alleging they sought exposure and celebrity, which he said led to unfocused, poorly attended practices.
The article closes on a positive note:
Make no mistake, the LFL uses sex to sell football. (Hopefuls are instructed to wear “cute gym gear” to try-outs and must bring a head shot to what’s essentially a casting call.) But without football-fast, smart and tough tackle football-the league has no leg on which to strap its lacy garter belt.
When my No. 15 was called at the end of the first try-out in Richmond, I fist-bumped my new teammates. “You’re B.C. Angels now,” said Mortaza and he pitched us on the aspiration that the LFL would eclipse the CFL in Canada. That’s his ambition. The Angels want to play football.
The paper ran three photos: a front page photo with a woman wearing something approximating a sports bra holding a football obscuring her face; a photo of a man (in focus) about to throw a football towards a woman (out of focus, foreground) running a passing route wearing a black sports bra and black tight shorts; a football of a woman running shuttle sprints while clad in orange sports bra and blue tight shorts.
To this, ex-Grand Forks Gazette editor Shella Gardezi (last seen on the blog here) took umbrage, via twitter:
@VanCourierNews mock Post Media fascination with lingerie football, then run multi-page feature on it? Brain-eating zombies, maybe?
She was apparently referencing a Kudos & Kvetches blog post that snarked on the Vancouver Sun and the “completely necessary” 17-picture photo gallery that accompanied its news story on the football team “that really fleshed out the issue.”
Kudos then fired back. First via Twitter:
So did Stewart, also on Twitter:
Gardezi then really kicked it off:
Kudos & Kvetches referenced the spat in a blog posting titled “Twits-a-tweeting”, citing some of the above back and forth (but not naming Gardezi):
So when a self-proclaimed “real reporter” took the Courier to task for last week’s feature story on the new Vancouver team in the Lingerie Football League by tweeting “Why did @VanCourierNews mock Post Media fascination with lingerie football, then run multi-page feature on it? Brain-eating zombies, maybe?” we took note, and not just because of the rhetorical question mentioning zombies. Well, maybe a little.
[W]e thought our critic would have succumbed to K&K and Stewart’s Malachi Crunch (that’s a Happy Days reference, by the way), but not so. She replied, astonishingly, “Didn’t read the article but the photos did kind of make it look like a visit to the Dr. for an annual physical.”
So there you go. She’s not a fan of the Lingerie Football League’s dress code. And neither is Stewart and many of the athletes who want to play competitive football—a point that is discussed at length in the article. Except of course, our critic didn’t know that because she didn’t bother to read the article before she started tweeting about her aversion to it. Nice one.
That’s the last we’ve heard from the Courier folk, but Gardezi responded on Twitter and her own blog.
Gardezi, on Twitter:
@trueblinkit [ed. note: @trueblinkit is Courier editor Barry Link] Why don’t you hire some professional behaving adults who don’t expect everyone to savour their drivel?
@MHStewart And in any case the personal way you responded suggests you’re not a very good writer and I enjoy reading good stuff.
Finally, she published a long blog post. I’m not going to quote the whole thing, but here are some samples:
Gardezi writes, after a bit:
I haven’t gotten to the borderline personality disorder Vancouver Courier writers are apparently required to have. See, what I didn’t realize was that the article was all about Megan Stewart, the author, and, therefore, I absolutely had to read it or I wasn’t media literate enough to write a blog about the media. Because, according to Stewart, she is “the media” and if I don’t read her work I don’t read “the media.” In other words, it’s all about her and don’t you ever forget it. I hear what you’re saying. You’re wondering what’s so “borderline” about that.
It gets worse. That evening I was alerted that I should read the Courier because the anonymous columnist (why does a newspaper have an anonymous columnist?) had written about me. In fact, she was now bragging that Stewart had insulted my blog on Twitter by saying I didn’t read her most brilliant article, and therefore I was not qualified to hold a blog on media. There was some mocking of the title of this blog, which, ironically, I had named because of an inexperienced community newspaper reporter who used an anonymous blog to ridicule private citizens.
So, there are one or two areas here where Stewart and the anonymous columnist forgot the paper was about the reader and not about them. First of all, Stewart responded to an impersonal criticism about content with a personal insult directed to a reader.
Secondly, Stewart thought it was my job to read about what she cared about, rather than her job to write about what the reader cares about. I realize you can’t write for every reader all the time. That’s why newspapers are generally open to criticism both good and bad. That way they can get a sense of what the reader wants, and what they don’t want. I’m not saying my opinion is the only one, but as a reader, I should be allowed to give an opinion without being ridiculed.
Thirdly, the idea of an anonymous columnist making fun of a reader and her blog in the newspaper over some tweet is totally nuts. Was the editor fast asleep at the wheel when this happened? For one thing, that’s an abuse of the newspaper’s power. For another thing, the general public does not care about Stewart’s little tiffs with readers.
Gardezi closes with several questions:
What kind of writer is Stewart that she has to respond to criticisms about content with insults? Why should I care that Stewart had qualms about something she was voluntarily participating in? Why can’t Stewart speak for her own work? Why does she have to hide behind an anonymous columnist? Why are the reporters online if they can’t engage civilly with readers? And, where is the editor in all of this?
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