Ratings are down for the sports TV networks but radio host Mitch Melnick says sports fans are tuning in for a diversion from COVID-19 crisis.
Monday, just after noon, TSN 690 host Mitch Melnick was on his way to take the subway to work, just as he has most days since the COVID-19 crisis hit.
The same day, Premier François Legault announced at his daily press conference that all non-essential businesses needed to close by midnight Tuesday. The premier went on to say that he considered the media to be an essential service and you can safely assume he wasn’t really thinking of sports media.
But people do still need sports media, if for nothing else than to provide a much-needed break from the terrifying news we’re seeing 24/7 on the all-news networks.
“In many ways, (sports radio) is an essential service,” said Melnick. “I realize we’re not re-inventing anything but we’re getting a lot of feedback from people, just thanking us that we are on the air, that we’re not just running ESPN.”
And Melnick is happy to come in to work every day even when the majority of the province’s workers are staying home to try to stay safe.
“They asked me if I wanted to use a Comrex (equipment that allows for remote broadcast) at home, but the kind of show that I do, it’s so in the moment,” said Melnick. “My cues are with my eyes, with my head. I’ll do it if I absolutely have to, but I prefer not to. My feeling is that if there’s someone in master control in the building, I’ll be there too.”
But it’s a surreal world for sports broadcasters. TV networks like TVA Sports and RDS are running old National Hockey League games. The other day on his show JiC, popular TVA Sports host Jean-Charles Lajoie had a discussion about who should win which trophy this year in the NHL and he’s also had a segment on the magical Jaroslav Halak playoff run of 2010. On TSN 690, the station has been running classic Habs playoff games, including a few of those incredible games from their improbable 2010 playoff sprint when Halak nearly single-handedly slayed first the President Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and then the previous year Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Game 6 of the 2010 Caps Habs series is on TSN 690 Tuesday night and Game 7 of the same series airs Thursday. Both start at 7 p.m.
Monday night, TVA Sports aired the last game of the 2018 Stanley Cup final between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Capitals. Tuesday TVA will show the 2019 Winter Classic with the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Wednesday on the same network, it’ll be the skills competition from the 2019 All-Star weekend in San Jose.
People do appreciate the diversion, but it goes without saying that the ratings are booming for the news networks and dropping radically for the sports TV stations.
Last week, Marc-André Lemieux from Le Journal de Montréal reported that TVA Sports’s ratings were down 83 per cent and RDS’s numbers were down 73 per cent. It’s not rocket science. There are no live professional sports games to broadcast. At the same time, the ratings for the news networks here are booming. Between March 13 and 17, the audience for francophone all-news network LCN jumped 203 per cent while the ratings for Radio-Canada’s news network RDI surged 128 per cent.
But some are liking the escapism of talking about old hockey games.
Former NHL player Ray Ferraro was on with Melnick the other day talking about Game 7 of the 1986 playoff series pitting Ferraro’s Hartford Whalers against the Canadiens at the Forum. The game went to overtime and the Habs won it on a goal by clutch playoff hero extraordinaire Claude Lemieux and obviously if the Whalers would’ve scored, Montreal would not have won its 23rd Stanley Cup that year.
“We just started to reminisce, and it just took us off on so many different directions,” said Melnick. “There were so many memories. (Ferraro) started talking about his teammates and fans started reacted to the ’86 Habs. There’s always stories to tell. As long as there are stories to tell, I think people are listening. We’ve replayed a lot of the great Canadiens games and we’re trying to get some players to contribute. We can’t go to the bar right now and this is like the discussion at the bar about sports. We’re trying to keep it light. They’re not tuning in to us (for the COVID news). They’re tuning it to us to get away from all that sh–.”
Social media both a blessing and a curse during coronavirus pandemic – KitchenerToday.com
We are facing an unprecedented crisis of public understanding. Western digital corporations and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Reddit) and their Chinese equivalents (WeChat, Weibo, Tencent and Toutiao) are at the heart of this crisis. These platforms act as facilitators and multipliers of COVID-19-related misinformation.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that urgent measures must now be taken to address the “coronavirus infodemic.”
This infodemic compromises outbreak response and increases public confusion about who and what information sources to trust; generates fear and panic due to unverified rumours and exaggerated claims; and promotes xenophobic and racist forms of digital vigilantism and scapegoating.
Governments, public health authorities and digital corporations need to not only promote digital literacy, but combat ways in which the impact of social media may be spawning an irreversible post-truth age, even after the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates.
Misinformation during outbreaks
Misinformation has been pervasive in other recent large-scale outbreaks. In the 2018 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, suspicions were raised when the ruling government cancelled national elections in Ebola-affected areas, eliminating opposition votes.
Rumours are a second form of misinformation. One popular conspiracy theory held that the virus was developed as a means to wage a biological war against China. In China, a rumour spread that bioweapons research in a Wuhan laboratory resulted in the genetic engineering of COVID-19 that was then released. Such rumours may have even jeopardized the working relationship between Western scientists and their Chinese counterparts searching for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Untrue, exaggerated and dubious medical claims and hoaxes are other common forms of misinformation. Various unproven natural and traditional remedies were proffered as cures to both Ebola and COVID-19, such as drinks that contained mint and spices like saffron and turmeric that spread in Iran through Twitter.
Influencing outbreak outcomes
During times of emergency and disaster, urgent questions arise and require immediate response. The problem is that officials don’t consistently provide the accurate information that’s required very quickly.
A post-truth society is one in which subjective opinions and unverified claims rival valid scientific and biomedical facts in their public influence. The need for evidence to support reasoned arguments becomes downplayed, while at the same time, the social norm concerning how and why people should be held accountable for what they say is weakened.
Scientists and other experts ultimately lose social legitimacy and authority in the eyes of the public because what they bring to the table is no longer valued.
When complex emergencies arise, public officials are cautious about making premature pronouncements, instead carefully crafting statements to ensure accuracy and avoid the pitfalls of misinterpretation and exaggeration. Somewhat paradoxically, this careful approach may also contribute to the formation of an information vacuum that rumours and falsehoods are all too ready to fill.
In the digital age, the time needed to analyze, assess and communicate information cannot compete with the instantaneous spreading of misinformation on social media platforms.
The impact of social media misinformation may be even more pronounced because of confirmation bias, the tendency to accept statements that reinforce our established views and to downplay statements that counter these views.
Misinformation & xenophobia
Racist content spread through social media may reinforce already pre-existing biases and prejudices. Xenophobic reactions that emerged during the 2003 SARS outbreaks in Toronto, amongst other cities, are being repeated during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s different now is how easily social media can fuel this behaviour. A particularly poignant illustration is a viral WeChat rumour that a particular Chinese restaurant in Canada employed someone with COVID-19 and that health officials had closed the restaurant. The restaurant lost 80 per cent of its revenue.
Social media also facilitates a form of prejudiced collective organizing that, similar to crowdsourcing, rapidly enlists a large number of people, yet does so on the basis of questionable claims and beliefs. An online petition compiled by 8,000 people north of Toronto demanded that the school board ban students whose family members had recently travelled to China from attending school.
The information vacuum
During the early stages of the 2003 SARS outbreak in China, people shared information about the outbreak through simple text messaging. Despite efforts by the government to not share information about the outbreak with the WHO, information about “atypical pneumonia” circulated widely.
With COVID-19, the Chinese state’s censorship of and control over online content created an information vacuum. Despite this, citizens have used social media to express veiled criticism of government mismanagement and lack of government accountability.
During the early stages of the outbreak, before the Chinese government was releasing any information, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang — a whistleblower for COVID-19 — posted messages on the spread of a SARS-like illness. As screenshots of his posts went viral, he was disciplined by local police for promoting “untrue speech.” Li died of complications from the virus on Feb. 7, 2020.
News of his death dominated Chinese social media, with a flurry of messages expressing grief as well as anger directed at the government. “Dr. Li Wenliang passed away” became the top search record on Weibo. State censors intervened to remove posts on Li’s death, but public outrage led to increased demands for free speech and greater information transparency from the government.
By contrast, as the outbreak intensifies, social media has taken on new and increased importance with the large-scale implementation of social distancing, quarantine measures and lockdowns of complete cities. Social media platforms have become a way to enable homebound people survive isolation and seek help, co-ordinate donations, entertain and socialize with each other.
The frequency of disease outbreaks like the one we’re currently witnessing will increase, given the ways in which connections between human beings and nature continue to intensify.
Pandemics will require co-ordinated global response strategies. Digital corporations and social media platforms can and must be at the heart of these strategies, since their responses and willingness to collaborate with governments and public health officials will determine whether social media is viewed as a beneficial or pathological vector of pandemic response.
At present, it’s imperative to develop policies and mechanisms that address the digital creation and spread of misinformation about disease outbreaks. To do this will require that biomedical knowledge about pandemics be supplemented by expertise about their social, political and cultural underpinnings.
Without that understanding, efforts to contain COVID-19 will be hindered by “spreading unnecessary panic and confusion, and driving division, when solidarity and collaboration are key to saving lives and ending the health crisis.”
S. Harris Ali, Professor, Sociology, York University, Canada and Fuyuki Kurasawa, York Research Chair in Global Digital Citizenship, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University, Canada
Dr. Bonnie Henry fan clubs pop up on social media – Burnaby Now
You may not have heard of her before this pandemic, but you definitely know her now.
Dr. Bonnie Henry is the provincial health officer who has been leading the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in BC. She has been delivering the sombre statistics during daily updates on the virus spread in the province, as well as providing instructions and answers on how to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
She has accumulated a cult following of fans who are very happy to voice their appreciation for Henry’s work.
There are now Dr. Bonnie Henry Fan Clubs that have popped up on Facebook and Twitter, that allow users to post and share how much they appreciate Dr. Henry and all of her work. The fan club Twitter account mostly posts updates when Henry is about to speak, or retweets posts from the public on their various thoughts about the health officer.
The Facebook group seems to be a little more on the wild side, pondering everything from Dr. Henry’s age to her relationship status. But nevertheless, every post in the group is steadfastly behind the provincial health officer, and everything she has done to keep the public informed.
Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert – Campbell River Mirror
Amidst time of crisis, people around the world are in a hurry to find accurate information, but sometimes it’s not always there.
In times like these before technology, people around the would flood to a trusted news source to get the latest information. Now, even legacy news sources, mass media institutions that predominated the Information Age, are using social media to reach their readers.
A B.C. expert in communications is warning the public to check their sources and ensure what they’re reading is accurate, to help reduce the spread of misinformation.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” said professor and director of Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication, Peter Chow-White, in an interview March 18.
“It’s a (curse) because on the one hand there’s a lot of information out there, it’s hard to know – you have to sort of sift through a lot of it to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s real and what’s not.
“The blessing of social media is that the information gets delivered very quickly to our home, so we can react much faster than we normally would around these sorts of things.
Additionally, in order to navigate through crisis, he says the public needs to practice being information and media literate.
“It’s huge on the individual these days,” explained Chow-White.
“This is sort of a place where legacy news comes back into play and becomes more important than ever.”
With thousands of news sources and websites reporting on the pandemic, and some reporting on a crisis for the first time, the professor says the accuracy of information reaching people’s news feeds can be lost.
“It’s just not their traditional domain,” he said.
Social contagion, he explained, operates very similarly to viral contagion; there is a network effect, and social media amplifies this.
“It amplifies that (misinformation) and creates fear and panic in people’s minds without giving them the oportunity and the information to understand the context; how to mitiage that fear itself.
“In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable.”
Earlier this month, Black Press Media reported that an Interior Health medical officer condemed an article published by an Okanagan media outlet. The article included a “projected death” calculation that upwards of 5,800 people in the Okanagan could die from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The media outlet since issued a public apology.
Chow-White says since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, some information hasn’t been properly communicated.
“It would have been good to have messaging around – you don’t need a ton of toilet paper, and you don’t need it for two years. That’s a good case of how information gets delivered improperly and the narrative takes over instead of the science.”
However he added, there are many benefits to society tackling a crisis during the Information Age, thanks in part to social media.
“Social media becomes critical in communication. People need to be able to go to Twitter and have the algorithms push the information that is most important and that is the most trustworthy,” said Chow-White.
“Even though people are managing their own feeds, Twitter and Facebook have a social responsibility in these moments as well.”
Social media companies have had to act quick in their response to misinformation but also access to facts since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
For Facebook, that includes banning ads that capitalize on fears, putting more funds into fact-checking resources to comb out the false claims about treatments, and removing all non-official COVID-19 accounts from Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter has pledged to relaunch its profile verification program to help identify authoritative voices in its attempt to ensure facts are being seen by users first and foremost.
Even Snapchat, which is used mainly by younger demographics, has added a dedicated section on its app for COVID-19 news.
Not a B.C. conversation, but a global one
Chow-White furthered that the current COVID-19 situation isn’t a B.C. conversation; it’s a global conversation which works at multiple levels. These include local, national and international levels.
Over the last month, several events have reinforced why Chow-White believes the internet is an uneven approach to following information by leadership, in the context of global information.
Referencing the topic of flattening the curve, moving from a mitigation strategy to a containment strategy, he says this wasn’t done particularly well in Canada, and especially B.C.
“An example of that is – the Ministry of Education on Friday (March 13) announced that there’s no reason to close schools – and it’s good to keep them open… completely contradicting what the rest of the world is doing.
“Ninety-six hours (later), they reverse into a 180.”
B.C. has been hosting afternoon news briefings on Monday to Friday and at noon on Saturday – streamed by all TV stations but also broadcasted live on the government’s social media channels. These briefings include a daily case count, any provincial orders delivered by B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and a question-and-answer portion for reporters.
Such provincial orders have included a ban on large gatherings – initially for events with more than 250 attendees but which has since been lowered to 50 guests – shutting down bars an dnightclubs and banning dine-in guests at restaurants.
“We are dealing today with things happening 10 to 14 days ago. The things we do now are going to help us 10 days, 14 days from now,” Henry continues.
— Ashley WASH-YOUR-HANDS-wani (@ashwadhwani) March 18, 2020
But the ban on gatherings has proven just how difficult it is to get messaging quickly to thousands of provincial citizens. Days after Henry announced the order, people were still spotted on social media hosting weddings and other events.
Henry has spent much of her daily briefings reminding the public that the ban may be on gatherings of more than 50, but that doesn’t mean that 45 attendees or even 20 or 10 makes anyone less at-risk of contracting the virus.
In fact, she has since urged people to stay indoors and if they go outside only go with the people you live with and in grous of no more than one or two – and most importantly, stay six feet apart.
The province unveiled this week that under the current state of emergency, bylaw officers are now being enabled to enforce government restrictions.
On Friday, March 27, Henry unveiled what she called ‘cautious optimism’ that the various contact restrictions had nearly halved the potential transmission.
That report sparked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remind the public that while “an excellent sign,” the news offered even more of a reason for people to continue listening to advice of health officials.
“If we are seeing a reduction in the spikes, then that shows it is working but that means we need to continue what we are doing,” he said.
Unevennes has since evened out, says expert
Canada, Chow-White explained, is among the third wave of areas hit, following Asia and Italy. Currently, the U.S. is dealing with the most cases in the world right now, as China has started to see a drastic reprieve.
Iran, he said, has been one of the hardest hit areas.
Last week pictures surfaced online of football-field sized mass graves, taken from space.
“If that was a first-world country, then we’d be a lot more panicked. But we tend to ignore these sorts of things in the global north, unfortunately. Not everybody mind you, but a lot of people,” he said.
“If there was some sort of connection between that and us, a little more force through the last week, we wouldn’t have people walking around outside right now, casually wondering why they can’t go out for St. Patty’s Day.
“I’m not trying to make light of it, I’m just trying to illustrate a lag and an unevenness.”
Thankfully, he said, that unevenness had since evened out. He says people are getting it, and they’re staying home.
OPH investigating 16 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa, bringing total to 122 – OttawaMatters.com
NASA Scientists Find Secret in Decades-Old Voyager 2 Data About the Ice Giant Uranus – SciTechDaily
The strong economic enticements for the Edmonton Oilers to return to the ice post-COVID-19 as soon as humanly possible: 9 Things – Edmonton Journal
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Popular Richmond BBQ spot speaks out about coronavirus rumours after man collapses outside restaurant – Vancouver Is Awesome
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reports January housing sales up 42.4 percent
- Tech19 hours ago
Details of the Galaxy Fold 2 leak on the internet; check image – Somag News
- Tech6 hours ago
Supplier worries might mean a delay to the iPhone 12 launch – TechRadar India
- Health18 hours ago
Alberta doctors scrambling to get cancer surgeries done before 'tidal wave' of COVID-19 patients – CBC.ca
- Sports22 hours ago
SIMMONS SAYS: Confrontations with angry season ticket holders ends in compromise for Leafs and Raptors – Toronto Sun
- Sports23 hours ago
column Oilers in playoff spot at season pause helped by meeting, GM says – NHL.com
- News5 hours ago
WHO expert's advice for Canada: don't just flatten the curve, curtail it – CTV News
- Economy14 hours ago
The Lockdown Is an Opportunity to Redefine What Our Economy Is For – Jacobin magazine
- Art19 hours ago
Life mimics art for actors in play about pandemic – Saanich News