Speaking here as someone who has endured a dozen or so years of hard labour in the Cowtown media, Calgary’s worst literary enemies are not “smarmy twerps” from the eastern press. They are the paranoid and belligerent twerps in the Calgary media.
Let me explain.
But first, I hope readers will forgive me if I brag a little and tell you about how the Toronto Star chose a line from my post about the results of Calgary’s recent mayoral vote for a roundup of what other folks are saying about the election of a mayor who is both progressive and Muslim in a town mainly associated in the popular imagination with mean spiritedness and narrow mindedness.
This is kind of provincial of me to brag about the attention, I know, but then, like I said, I used to work for a Calgary newspaper…
Now, where was I? Oh yeah… There’s lots of depth to Calgary, lots of interesting people there, and lots to do and see – which would include, of course, that famously great view of the Rocky Mountain Cordillera. As has been noted here on more than one occasion, Calgarians have a propensity for electing liberal mayors who get it that government can and should do great things. If their voting record at the provincial and federal levels is not so great, well, their mayors are evidence there is hope they can do better someday.
Having also spent some time working in the media in Toronto, I can tell you that the dread eastern media generally understands this about Cowtown – indeed, when I was at the Globe and Mail, it seemed as if half the people I met in the newsroom had passed through the Calgary Herald at one point or another on their way to something bigger and better.
So if the big, bad eastern media generally gets it about Calgary, and Calgarians themselves contain plenty of genuinely progressive and thoughtful people among their numbers, where do I get off saying Calgary is “mainly associated in the popular imagination with mean spiritedness and narrow mindedness”?
I’ll tell you: It’s the parochial and provincial commentary provided by the quite dreadful media in that town that leaves many folks in the rest of the country with the mistaken impression people from Calgary hate them, and are cranky and miserable about pretty well everything else too.
What made me think of this, of course, were a couple of the other voices included in the Star’s roundup …. if I can be forgiven for using a term that could be taken as disrespectful to the New West
Here’s Rick Bell, for example, the Calgary Sun’s, I don’t know… staff curmudgeon? Whatever. Anyway, here’s what “the Dinger” had to say about one of the positive and friendly stories about Calgary appearing in the media across the land.
“We’ve thrown a curve to the eastern chattering classes who look down their nose at us when they look down at all. They figure we are backward, misguided folk who are less tolerant, less compassionate, less open-minded. We exist to be chastised for being politically out-of-tune one minute and patted on the head the other, usually when some smarmy twerp flies out here and scribbles out patronizing pap on how goldarn cute us Calgarians look decked out in western duds at Stampede time.”
I’ve got news for you, Dinger. It’s you the eastern chattering classes are paying no attention to. I’ll give you this, though: a bunch of pasty faced overweight office guys do look pretty silly teetering around on Cuban heels with 10-gallon white hats pulled down to their ears at Stampede time, especially when they insist on calling each other goldarn cute little nicknames.
Seriously, though, where are the examples of this demeaning coverage about Calgary that “The Dinger” says is routine in the eastern media? I must have missed that day’s edition of the Globe and Mail.
Then there was Licia Corbella, editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald but an alumna of Mr. Bell’s Calgary Sun, who opined sarcastically that, “suddenly the East’s view of Albertans as hayseed bigots will somehow evaporate like hardened snow in a Chinook. …” Don’t worry, she promised, “the unfair stereotype sticks like bullpoop on Alberta boots.”
Well, true enough, I suppose, but only because of the efforts of a few tiresome windbags in the Calgary media. If these guys would just put a cork in it, Calgary’s reputation would improve overnight! Just look at the lovely coverage Naheed Nenshi quite rightly got!
This post also appears on rabble.ca.