It’s a common practice in reporting to fill out a story with tenuously-related events.
Take, for example, reporting on an earthquake. A reporter is supposed to have enough facts to fill the necessary space in a newspaper or magazine, or to fill the air-time on radio and TV. If you don’t have enough to say, you can pad the story by talking about other recent earthquakes.
“Yesterday’s earthquake in Rand McNally comes only weeks after an earthquake on Zeta Reticuli, which killed two hundred.”
Boom. Easy filler. This works for pretty much anything. Sounds easy, right? Not always. How about this:
“The capybaras’ escape from the High Park Zoo comes only days after Mayor John Tory’s Smart Track transit plan disappeared from City Hall, and has not since been seen by anyone.”
When you try to link similar-sounding events that are not actually comparable you wind up sounding stupid to your readers, or, worse, embarrassing or even insulting to their intelligence.
Talking this week on TSN 690 Montreal, Darren Dreger shared thoughts about the Buffalo Sabres’ Evander Kane. Right at the mention of that name anyone would be aware he is a landmine of a topic. Dreger’s mind should be at red alert.
In the interview, which I first learned of via Today’s Slapshot here, Dreger goes down the “tenuously-related event” route, and it was a bumpy ride.
The NHL’s “Bad Boy” Club
In July, Evander Kane was charged by Buffalo Police with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment.
As reported by The Buffalo News, this happened after an incident at a Buffalo bar where Kane allegedly “yanked the hair and grabbed the throat of one of the women, while trying to push her into his car,” then refused to leave when asked and was ultimately forcibly removed. The police allege there is video evidence of this happening.
Kane has had a long history of controversial behaviour. Some of his past controversies were silly; the kind we see played up to fill column space every season, like the Money Phone incident. This most recent incident was not silly at all.
In his interview, Dreger makes the most ridiculous “tenuously-related” comparison I can think of. When asked if Kane “can shed the reputation he has earned,” Dreger christens him the newest member of the “NHL Bad Boys Club,” comparing him specifically to Sean Avery.
I would say that a good portion of it is not deserved; but, because of his reputation, this kind of thing is going to plague him. It’s going to follow him. He’s become a poster boy in terms of the NHL bad boy club. Not unlike Sean Avery back in the day. Wherever Sean Avery went, there was always somebody looking. ‘Oh geez, there’s Sean Avery. Let’s see if we can poke the bear here a little bit.’
Sean Avery certainly was an NHL “bad boy.” He was known for insulting other players, their girlfriends, and also did this, causing the creation of the “Avery Rule”. That is prototypical “bad boy” behaviour; he was riding the edge of respectability to grab attention for himself.
Yes, he was once arrested for assault of a police officer, but so was Claude Giroux in 2014, and Dreger didn’t mention him as a member of the club.
The events for which Kane has been charged, and which Dreger and the host of this show totally gloss over, were not the same kind of “bad boy” behaviour to which he attempts to draw a comparison.
Whatever actually happened to Kane and any alleged victims that night, let us not implicitly waive it off as bad behaviour like that of a man whose best known bad behaviour is flailing his arms on the ice in front of Martin Brodeur.
None of the alleged victims saw Kane that night and said to themselves “Let’s see if we can poke the bear here.”
Amazingly, Dreger then goes even deeper down the hole:
I’m not making excuses for Evander Kane. Probably a great deal of what he’s been accused of he’s partly responsible for anyway. Not all of it though.
This is an incredible statement. A great deal of what he’s been accused of “he’s partly responsible for”? So who is responsible for the other parts, Darren?
The context here, with the lack of any reference to what is happening now, implicitly puts his recent actions into a “boys will be boys” category, dismissing them with a wave of the hand.
If you really have nothing new to add to a controversial story, don’t bring it up. If someone else does, stick to the facts. Say “Evander Kane has been charged with serious crimes and has a history of controversial behaviour” and leave it at that. You will never properly make your point if you stray into tenuously related events.