From the way the government handled COVID and how the media reported it, to the Hockey Canada fiasco, to a runaway number one, here is my top 10.
This is the first of two Top 10 entries on the mess Hockey Canada made for itself by creating slush funds to pay sexual assault victims, covering them up and then showing arrogance when its executives and former executives appeared before a government committee. TSN, which is being affected by this scandal more than anyone other than Hockey Canada itself, quietly announced in September it may not show all games from this year’s world junior tournament. It didn’t say why, but it was obviously because sponsors were dropping like flies. Fewer sponsors means fewer games on TV.
I have a soft spot for people doing Communications work, especially for government these days. It’s not easy. About 30-years ago, I was one of them. In September I got COVID while in the Vancouver area tending to my in-laws who had health issues this year. While there, COVID regulations were easing and I had sympathy for the poor comms people who had to write messaging about why COVID restrictions were being relaxed despite continuing deaths and illnesses.
About six weeks after I wrote the #10 blog of the year, I wrote about the Hockey Canada mess again after it admitted to a government committee it had paid the crisis communications firm Navigator $1.6 million for four months of work. My advice right from the start would have been to come clean, admit to making mistakes and start on a path to do better. Hockey Canada could have saved $1.6 million by hiring me and likely saved sponsors too.
During the pandemic, more and more news conferences saw government and health officials reading from prepared statements. They often took questions from reporters, but it became easy for media outlets to just grab a couple of sentences from the newsmaker reading the prepared statement and throwing it on the evening news or a radio newscast. That’s lazy journalism and doesn’t force the person at the news conference to answer questions the public is interested in. That’s the state of journalism in 2022 in Canada though.
Last January I was really busy doing media training workshops in Alberta from Grande Prairie in the north to Taber, in the south. I saw some interesting signs in hotels I stayed in. One basically told customers mandatory masking requirements by government were actually optional in the bar, while the other warned people at the front desk to be kind to staff and not belligerent. They left we wondering what’s wrong with people?
I was in the news business for 15-years and have followed the industry for the last 30-years. I have a pretty good idea of what stories people are interested in and should be making headlines. I was puzzled though why the news media seemed to abandon the COVID story even though ten people a day were dying from the virus in Alberta earlier this year. As the year ends, around seven people are still dying every day, but yet we hardly hear about it.
This blog went hand-in-hand with #5 on the list. In June, the Kenney government issued a news release that announced two huge changes to COVID restrictions. People with COVID wouldn't have to isolate and masks would no longer be required on public transit. It was a classic case of releasing news late on a Friday afternoon that you didn’t want to comment to the media about. The short-staffed media whiffed on the significance of the announcements too, so the government strategy worked brilliantly.
One of the top sports stories of the year was the golf battle between the Saudi-backed LIV Tour and the established PGA Tour. Golfer Phil Mickelson became the poster boy for disgruntled golfers jumping the PGA ship. Early in the year though, he got into trouble in the media when what he said were off-the-record comments became on-the-record and got released in advance of a book called Phil. His attempted recovery left him carding a triple bogey.
Four blogs I wrote on COVID made it to the Top 10, led by this one. The blogs weren’t about COVID itself, they were about the way the government handled announcements to the news media and how the media reported on them. This blog looked at the possible reasons for the Alberta government suddenly releasing less information on COVID. As we learned from the movie, first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club.
This turned out to be one of the most popular blogs I’ve ever written. I got the inspiration from an early fall drive through Edmonton Northlands and thought about how a deal the City of Edmonton made with Oilers owner Daryl Katz basically drove the final nail into the coffin of a once thriving organization. Although Northlands wasn’t what it once was, it was stunning how quickly it went from being a viable entity to bankruptcy.
See You Next Year
This is my last blog of 2022 and I want to take a moment to thank you for reading them and commenting. I really appreciate it and it makes the hard work of blog writing worth it.
Enjoy the holidays and I'll see you in 2-3.