Sportsnet gets heat from fan community for Fan Expo coverage
Imagine you’re at Fan Expo. You’ve arrived in a costume that you’ve worked particularly hard on, representing your respective fandom. You’re getting compliments, handshakes, and high-fives. A photographer stops to take your photo, saying that they’re with a major Canadian broadcaster. “Oh boy!” you think, “I can’t wait for everyone to see this!” You pose and they take the pic as you think about the idea of so many people appreciating your hard work. The next day, you do a bit of Googling, and see your picture live on their site. But instead of celebrating your design, it’s captioned by someone who has no idea who you’re cosplaying and derides you for it. It’s embarrassing and out there for everyone to see.
Well, guess what? This is a very real thing that happened on a very big scale.
Canadian sports broadcaster Sportsnet commissioned a wrap-up piece on Fan Expo by writer Bryan Calhoun, who has worked exclusively on the Got Game series – a gaming-focused branding by Sportsnet that includes a podcast and a series of write-ups on Sportsnet’s website. This write-up in particular, featuring Calhoun’s comments interspersed by photos taken by Christine Chubb, weave together a seemingly random collection of images, with Calhoun’s comments ranging from being disinterested to flat out ignorant of nerd culture.
The article – which has since been removed by Sportsnet (for “formatting issues”, according to Calhoun’s Twitter feed) – does a poor job of representing gamers, or the community at large. On its own, the idea of a confused article regarding Fan Expo posted on behalf of a sports-focused website would seem par for the course. However, Sportsnet has gone out of their way to bring in a gaming audience with Got Game, wanting to bring in the eSports crowd and, extending from that, gamers at large. It’s frankly baffling as to why they would want to offend the very market they’re trying to bring in, particularly since they made a move on the culture so late in the game. As for Calhoun himself, his comments make it sound as if his interest in video games is in passing at best, let alone having the investment to attend a convention for fans.
Our very own Jonny engaged Calhoun directly on Twitter to hold him and Sportsnet accountable on the misrepresentation of fans at large that takes place in the article. Calhoun however refused to make direct comments on any of Jon’s concerns, or those from similar detractors, instead using evasive – and sometimes confrontational – language to get around criticisms. Calhoun has also since tried to make the article out as being “satirical”.
While many of my peers have voiced their feelings on the article as being offensive, I personally find it to be ignorant more than anything else. Calhoun’s unimaginative comments aren’t personal attacks so much as they are a product of someone who hasn’t bothered to learn anything about the culture he is reporting on. While his persona and gaming knowledge has apparently allowed him to run a gaming podcast for six years (again, according to him) that plays on behalf of a Canadian broadcaster, that fails to translate here. Were I in his position, I’d be less concerned with trying to deflect valid criticisms with pointless rhetoric, and instead, I would try find ways to remind fans that I’m one of them. Fan communities function best on a basis of mutual respect, but this article has failed to give fans the respect they deserve.
While it’ll be interesting to see if the article resurfaces after the backlash and in what state, a cached version can still be viewed through Google for anyone who’s curious to see the whole thing. If you have feedback, be sure to contact Sportsnet directly to voice your concerns.
UPDATE: Shortly after this article was written, Sportsnet went and re-uploaded Calhoun’s Fan Expo piece and – wouldn’t you know it – a number of the editorial comments have been changed. According to Calhoun, another staffer was brought on to do the edits. Was the change for the better? Well… you can decide (Top: Edit, Bottom: Original):