I’ve been working with some new contributors for this site and had an email exchange with one about my philosophy of coverage — probably the first time I’ve put it down so concisely (no, I know, it’s not that concise, and neither is this post) :
I want friendly interviews, not contentious, and honest but fair reviews — but I don’t mind an edge and I love a strong point of view, and I stay away from fangirl/boy gushing. If you hate or love a show you’re reviewing feel free to say so strongly — but make a case for your position either way. My philosophy is that treating shows and the industry like they can’t handle criticism is helping perpetuate the feeling that Canadian shows are the poor cousin of US shows — the “don’t kick the puppy” syndrome.
… [The site is] obviously intended to promote and support the Canadian TV industry so more people will hear about the shows and choose to watch them, but my angle on that is that pretending everything’s wonderful has the opposite effect on the audience.
I wrote something in 2006 on Canadian TV’s puppy syndrome, and as the years go by, my opinion has solidified even more around this sentence I wrote then:
Worse than receiving negative criticism is being considered unworthy of discussion or debate.
But years ago I stopped writing reviews after a few too many angry emails and one instance of continued harassment from people associated with the shows — generated by lukewarm rather than negative reviews, or even entirely positive interviews that didn’t mention someone who thought they should be mentioned.
Compared to the previous writing I’d done about US series, and dealings with US network PR, it felt like I’d been sent to the minors. The amateur hour whispers are still heard from former critics, writers and producers who have since escaped.
Things have changed in my world, either because the industry has matured, people are more used to bloggers and social media, I’m more used to dealing with our homegrown industry, they’re more used to TV, eh?, or, more likely, some combination of those.
The site’s back to doing reviews and with the new contributors I’ve got traction on doing more original features and opinion pieces. I’m having fun with it, which is my main motivation for continuing to run TV, eh? — that and the encouragement from many people who work in the industry.
Engaging with people who express contempt for me is not fun. The continued saga of Bell versus The Blogger won’t be fun for most readers. But I’m making an exception to my “when it stops being fun walk away” rule by writing about it again, because the only rationale I can think of for their communications with me lately is that they want to intimidate me into shutting up.
And Bell Media isn’t a puppy: it’s a big dog in the telecommunications world in Canada. And I am not inclined to be muzzled; their attempt, if that’s what it is, makes me more likely to continue to be the yappy little dog.
I mean, come on: they’re a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate now taking on a hobby blogger at every perceived slight.
They already sent a humourless, off-point response to my challenge that they stop talking about their great PR work at a time when their PR work wasn’t great.
Today, they phoned me to object to a tweet. It’s bush league in the Canadian TV industry again.
A production company enthusiastically tweeted a link to the Agam Darshi interview saying it was arranged by CTV at their upfront presentation yesterday. I retweeted them, happy that they were happy with the interview. I also added the clarification:
Though to be pedantic about that RT, the Agam Darshi interview wasn’t via CTV or the upfront – it was arranged directly with her people.
Not much later, Bell Media (yes, I’m using the impersonal corporate entity since I don’t think it’s fair to single out an individual) called me to object and drip some more contempt my way, and somehow insinuate that calling myself pedantic was an insult to Bell Media. (By the way, Bell, you’re welcome for commissioning a positive interview about your upcoming series without costing you time or effort.)
Would it have been important to me to clarify the credit if it weren’t for Bell’s open hostility toward me? Hard to say, but probably – I am, actually, often pedantic about precision, and Darshi’s “people” deserve to not have their efforts presented to her or to Twitter as a whole as the work of the network.
I get it: I can be harsh — though I try to do it with levity — about what I perceive as failings of the Canadian television industry. And there are a lot of failings if you believe, as I do, that Canadian content should be the core business of a Canadian broadcaster. As it is, our networks are the chronic retweeters of the broadcast industry, taking another country’s content to fill their stream. And that merits discussion and debate.
The people writing the ill-considered response to my post and making ill-considered phone calls are human beings: If I were Bell, I’d probably hate me too. But they’re also PR professionals: If I were Bell, I’d hate me silently.