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Gardezi v. Courier, or Is lingerie football journalism possible?

June 19, 2012 5 comments

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.

She writes:

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:

Gardezi wrote:

Why did @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:

@shellagardezi You don’t see a difference between a 40 pic gallery of T&A and @MHStewart writing about #LFL first hand, qualms and all?

So did Stewart, also on Twitter:

Learning about the athletes is more meaningful than merely ogling their goodies. @ShellaGardezi@VanCourierNews#LFLhttp://ow.ly/btuu6

Gardezi then really kicked it off:

@MHStewart @KudosKvetches Didn’t read the article but the photos did kind of make it look like a visit to the Dr. for an annual physical.

Stewart (incidentally, no stranger to sparring on Twitter):

Sweetheart, read the damn article. @ShellaGardezi @kudoskvetches @VanCourierNews

Gardezi:

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@VanCourierNews Let me guess female empowerment through hypersexualization. Wait! I have read it!

Stewart:

@ShellaGardezi@kudoskvetches@vancouriernews A media critic who doesn’t read the media. Good for you.

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:

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@vancouriernews Wow, are we seriously still having this conversation? Yes, Megan people read papers selectively.

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@trueblinkit A newspaper reporter who insults the community. Good for Megan!

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@trueblinkit And in any case I obviously was reading your paper because I knew what you printed months before.

@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@kudoskvetches@trueblinkit Oh, yeah. Did I forget to mention that writing about lingerie football is a complete waste of trees?

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches And what? You write a 10,000 word essay and I don’t read it so I don’t read the media? Are you the only media?

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@vancouriernews Really Megan, your comment is stupid on so many levels, I could do this all night.

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches And who in their right mind would read 10,000 words on lingerie football? Oh, right, brain dead zombies.

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@vancouriernews Oooh, got to finish my SB taxes tonight. Guess I can’t read the complete works of Megan.

@MHStewart And in any case the personal way you responded suggests you’re not a very good writer and I enjoy reading good stuff.

@trueblinkit@MHStewart Oh, and packaging. If I was going to write a really long article I would package it well. Yeah, you didn’t do that.

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@trueblinkit Personal attacks, anonymous rants and blaming others because they don’t like your content. Sad.

@MHStewart@kudoskvetches@trueblinkit I can’t even write a blog about what this un-professionalism says about media because it’s bedtime.

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.

And:

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.

And:

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.

And finally:

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?

Are you still with us?

If so, leave a comment.

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Go north (or, I don’t have a better name for this very brief post)

December 19, 2011 Comments off

Looking for something new to read? I’ll remind you that my colleague up in Northern B.C. continues to maintain a thoughtful, intelligent blog over at http://northernreporter.blogspot.com. So go check it out. In particular, read this post, because I hope to post my thoughts on this blog in the not-to-distant future.

Categories: Blogs Tags:

So it goes

May 28, 2011 1 comment

This blog, I think, is dying. Mostly it’s dying from the sun; it’s much easier to write on this blog when it’s dark by the time I get home from work. The Canucks are also partly responsible. But Postmedia also deserves a good share of the blame.

When I started it, I had the very, very vague notion that somehow I could influence my company’s bigwigs to start giving a damn about their community newspapers. I wasn’t optimistic, but I could dream. I’ve pretty much given up on that now.

Postmedia has some great community papers and employs many great journalists. Unfortunately, none of those people are in a position, or given the opportunity, to do much. Instead, it’s pretty clear that the whole operation lacks any sort of guiding hand and has no real purpose, except to not lose money while flooding the internet with “content.”

So fuck it. My only hope is that eventually Postmedia will give its community newspapers to someone who gives a damn and has a clue.

As for this blog, I’m going to keep it stringing along. The main problem is that I find stuff to write about by reading other papers, but I’ve had less time — and, frankly, less desire — to do so in recent months. I hoped when I started the blog to get some help in that regard, but that hasn’t happened so…yeah.

Eventually, I think I’m going to turn this into a Facebook group or page that can survive on its own as more of a meeting place, rather than as the current me-to-you direct feed of information that this blog currently is.

Categories: Blogs

Some commandments

April 29, 2011 6 comments

The Northern Reporter is back with a great post offering some commandments for a community newspaper.

Read his list here.

I agree with all of them, but the “they don’t care about how many reporters you have,” might not be a commandment so much as a rueful observation. There’s simply nothing you can do to please all the sports wackos out there who want you to cover events you don’t know about.

It’s best, I think, to take advantage of those who wonder why you don’t cover something by begging them to send stuff in. If they don’t, their loss.

I’ve been trying to think of some more commandments, but NR might have nailed all the broad, general ones. There are many guidelines for running a tiny community paper that the editor of a paper in a larger city could ignore, and vice versa.

Sorry for the paucity of recent posts. I can’t promise they’ll become more frequent as the weather gets better and I get busier. That said, I promise an in-depth CCNA and Ma Murray recaps next week thanks to a whole plethora of undercover volunteer observers (Hint: they’ll be the drunk ones). There may or may not be photos too.

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B.C. Reporter declares war on its competitors

March 6, 2011 2 comments

In the space of two freaking days, this blog suddenly gained two competitors. Thus, I hereby announce my desire to destroy them both.

Or not.

Seriously, it’s great to see Kamloops Daily News associate editor Catherine Litt and another mysterious (that’s my thing!) blogger start writing on the interwebs this weekend.

Catherine uses Tumblr for her “B.C. Newspapers Blog.” Here’s an intro of sorts to her blog:

While I do believe the end is nigh for traditional newsprint products, you won’t find me bemoaning that point. Instead, I’ll focus on the opportunities (and there are many) that await those of us willing to embrace change.

The “Northern Reporter,” meanwhile, uses Blogger for his/her aptly named “The Northern Reporter.” Here’s the last sentence of his/her description:

This isn’t a journalism blog, exactly. I’d call it a personal blog about journalism. I’m here to share my pain of learning the ropes in a newsroom, because I’ve discovered that as far as pain goes, this job has a fair bit of it.

more…

I’m pumped to have company, and hopefully Catherine and NR can keep up the excellent output.

Each has already provided a pretty good laugh. Catherine on interactive newsprint, and the NR on a Rossland story that deserves a bee-plus for punnery.

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