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U.S. Television Coverage

The following is the text of an e-mail I sent yesterday to Subscribers of StockResearchPortal.com. StockResearchPortal.com is a research website that provides coverage on the approximate 1,600 Mining and Oil & Gas stocks listed on the Toronto and Toronto Venture Stock Exchanges.

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My wife and I are Canadians who spend 3 months each year in North Carolina, have many good friends there, respect the ‘American Entrepreneurship’ that is a foundation of the American culture, and periodically amuse ourselves by watching when in North Carolina watching the news on television.  I comment here briefly on two reported events, one from the last few days, and one from about 2 years ago, and compare how they would have been dealt with by our Canadian television news reports.

First, the ‘Tiger Woods’ incident that occurred in the early hours of November 28.  Everyone in the free world must have heard how Tiger backed out of this driveway at 2:30 a.m., hit a tree and a fire hydrant, and was rescued by his wife who used a golf club to break one of the car’s windows to help him out of the car.  This story was incessantly covered by the U.S. news channels.  Please!!  Tiger Woods without doubt is one of the world’s premier athletes.  He is also 33 years old, pulls his pants on one leg at a time (or at least I assume he does), and presumably like the rest of us doesn’t ‘walk on water’.  The reports say no one, other than Tiger who is reported to have suffered minor injuries, was involved in the incident or harmed in any way by it.  So, big deal.  If Wayne Gretsky (a good Canadian comparator to Woods) had been involved in a similar incident it might have gotten 60 seconds of coverage on the Canadian television networks who would simply have reported the matter factually and moved on to the important world, national and local news of the day.

Second, you will remember the ‘Duke University Lacrosse Team’ incident where it was alleged (subsequently found not to be true by the U.S. Courts) that members of that team raped a girl.  My wife and I were in North Carolina when that event was first reported.  In Canada if similar allegations were made against members of a University of Toronto (Canada’s largest University) Men’s Sports Team the story would have made the National News on the day it was first reported for about 5 minutes maximum - likely never to be heard about again on that News Service until the matter was in the Courts or brought to resolution.  In North Carolina the Duke Lacrosse Team dominated local television news each day for weeks, and was prominently and repeatedly featured on the U.S. national programming.

In my experience Americans have deep ties to their sports icons and sports teams that for many of them are almost as important as their families and their jobs.  This explains part of the Networks and Press facination with these two stories.  That said, from my perspective the U.S. as a country and, importantly its residents, would be far better served going forward if U.S. Television Networks focused to an even greater degree than they do on the ongoing world events - political and economic - that are influencing and will influence and shape the U.S. going forward.

To use a sports analogy, ‘the ball game and its rules have and are rapidly changing on the world political and economic front’.  I think that many Americans are like the baseball catcher who, focused entirely on the field in front of him (read the U.S.), gets hit in the back of the head by an irate fan who throws a baseball at him from the stands behind home plate.  Television can be a great educator, and in my view the networks and reporters have a responsibility to ‘get it right’ and ‘place emphasis where it makes the most sense’.  I strongly believe this because I believe it likely a large majority of any television (or newspaper) audience believes what it hears without really questioning what is being reported.  In my view America needs ever more television reporting that focuses on reporting newsworthy items as a means of educating the American population on what is going on beyond America’s borders - and give the ‘Tiger Woods’ type stories the minimal 60 second, one time coverage they merit from the prospective of ‘newsworthiness’.