It’s still only January and already there’s a leading candidate for the worst newspaper column of 2017.
In a half-baked op-ed titled “British Columbia shows us what happens when we go to pot” that first ran in the Postmedia-owned Calgary Herald, poli-sci instructor Barry Cooper bemoaned the growing acceptance of cannabis use after a recent visit.
“With pot soon to be legal across the country, B.C. provides a glimpse of our future,” he wrote. “Indeed, if you wander through B.C. today, as we did over the Christmas break, more or less normal Albertans might be forgiven for thinking that the whole province is stoned.”
Professor Cooper was unhappy with the service at an Abbotsford steak house, which he blamed on marijuana after his daughter suggested their waiter was high. After a complaint to the manager fell on deaf ears, Cooper decided he must’ve been high too.
But instead of simply writing a mean Yelp review, he chose to get a story out of it and – despite there not being a shred of evidence to bolster his argument – went on to conflate the current deadly fentanyl crisis with pot use, which makes about as much sense as blaming it for other B.C. problems such as Vancouver‘s lack of affordable housing, the Canucks’ dwindling playoff chances or the existence of a new Trump Tower.
Along with the Herald, it ran in several dozen other Postmedia newspapers and websites across the country, and earned a mention in a recent episode of the media criticism podcast CANADALAND, where host Jesse Brown pointed out they at least didn’t use a stock photo of a guy smoking a giant-sized novelty joint that media outlets typically choose for cannabis stories.
Instead, it was accompanied by a photo of a man dressed as a mime at last year’s 420 gathering in Vancouver.
Given that most of the people who hit Sunset Beach last April weren’t wearing black and white facepaint, you have to wonder about the decision to pick that particular one from the 49 in total that Getty stringer Jeff Vinnick uploaded for use.
If the idea was to portray pot enthusiasts in a bad light, they could’ve just as easily gone with this one of a shirtless dude with the sun in his eyes wearing a baseball hat backwards.
But while many people will agree guys who wear baseball hats backwards are kinda douchey, everybody hates mimes. It’s simply taken as a given. They’re a bit like a mute version of Nickelback and have become one of the last remaining acceptable targets for mockery and/or assault in pop culture. Even David Bowie, an erstwhile champion of diversity and artistic expression, came to accept that mimes suck.
But I highly doubt the photo choice was actually part of some sort of sinister corporate agenda for Reefer Madness redux. Even though this is the same media empire whose septuagenarian CEO Paul Godfrey – a Montgomery Burns-like figure famous for lining his pockets with unearned bonuses while his company collapses – insisted that every newspaper in the chain run a front-page endorsement for noted weed opponent Stephen Harper in the last federal election. Which didn’t exactly go over well with readers.
As a former Postmedia minion myself, I think it’s much more likely an overworked web editor at the Herald simply thought it was a good pic, and content-starved newsrooms throughout the chain republished it as is. It’s probably earning them lots of clicks but, judging by the comments sections, is sadly further cementing the company’s reputation as — despite the vast number of committed and talented people still working there — a dinosaur media outlet that’s out of step with regular Canadians.
Particularly the younger ones they so desperately need to survive.