Severely Canadian: Oly Coverage Is ‘Death Porn’?

I love my Canadian brothers and sisters so it pained me to see their media’s overreaction to the so-called embarrassment of the Olympic torch malfunction and training death of the Georgian luger yesterday.

Vancouver Games Olympic Torch Malfunction

(Okay, Gretz could’ve used some powder)

The Opening Ceremonies were magnificient, yet five of the first six grafs in the VANCOUVER SUN’s account of Friday night lamented one of the four torch towers failing to rise from the floor. (Who gives a damn!)

Vancouver Games Olympic Torch Malfunction

Then there’s the coverage of the random death of anonymous Georgian luge participant Nodar Kumaritashvili, which the Sun characterized asdeath porn.”

The Sun’s account of the media coverage of the fatal luge crash:

A video recording Olympic athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili’s final moments in his fatal run down Whistler’s luge track Friday was broadcast on CTV and on the broadcaster’s Olympic website and quickly circulated throughout the Internet despite YouTube’s efforts to remove it from view.

Coverage of the accident, which spread faster through Twitter than through traditional media, sparked controversy with some online contributors criticizing the decision to broadcast the fatal crash while others were quick to share it and still others reacted almost callously to the death.

“I was on Twitter when it happened so that’s when I first heard about it,” said Alfred Hermida, who leads the integrated journalism program at the graduate School of Journalism of the University of British Columbia. “I heard the first reports of the death through Twitter and I heard about the video through Twitter.

“The reaction I saw from people I follow was, ‘I didn’t need to see that video.’ Their reaction was shock and horror.”

For its part, The Vancouver Sun decided not to post the video of the crash or graphic photos of the fatally injured luger.

As a news event, the incident was yet another dramatic demonstration of how the dissemination of news has changed.

There’s a lot of negative things that I don’t need to see, read or hear, but when something is news, it’s news. Meanwhile U.B.C. Prof. Hermida can continue circulating his lollipops and balloons syllabus to his journo students.

The Sun’s crowing about not posting the “graphic” video or photos is at best hypocritical and at worst, downright embarrassing. The Canadian outlet never had the option to post the video - it was never officially released by the IOC for authorized re-broadcast by any outlet other than NBC. And The Sun did indeed post a photo (above) of Kumaritashvili tumbling to his death.

Canadians are notoriously short on self-esteem (cliche, but true) when it comes to participating in world events, but the Winter Olympics is their wheelhouse. The IOC is unbelievably fortunate that the citizens of Vancouver and B.C. were willing to take on what has become a financial boondoggle for every city that hosts The Games.

Regardless of the outcome of the Vancouver Olympics, I’d like to salute Canadians for their effort. If there ever was a time for their citizens to elicit unfailing pride, it’s now.