The Montreal media and their bias towards the Habs
On Nov. 8, the Montreal Impact were eliminated by the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference semi-finals of the MLS playoffs, making it the Impacts best-ever finish in its history. While their historic run did a lot to encourage further coverage of soccer in Montreal, major media outlets in the city still have a long way to go.
A few months ago, Alain Crête of RDS and CHMP-FM 98.5’s Arcadio Marcuzzi got into a dispute over the lack of coverage of the Montreal Impact and introduced some eye-opening points. At the moment, there is only one journalist in all of Quebec’s major media outlets whose beat is the Montreal Impact. This journalist is Dave Lévesque of the Journal de Montreal. Considering the rise to prominence of the MLS in the last two years, this number is far too low.
Crête argued that the Montreal Canadiens is the city’s main sports attraction and claimed that if there was ever a scheduling conflict between them and the Impact, they would get the edge. As you may remember, RDS decided to air the Habs first pre-season game against Toronto instead of a game that would likely decide the Impacts post-season fate. That pre-season game went on to garner 422,000 viewers, dwarfing any number of viewers the Impact were expected to register.
The danger with numbers, however, is that they can be dangerously misused to prove a point. To compare the Impact with the Montreal Canadiens is an exercise in futility. The Habs have been around for more than 100 years, while the Impact was founded only five years ago. In addition, the Canadiens have shows like Hockey 360 and 24CH to promote their popularity while the Impact have nothing similar. As a result, there will be a disparity in viewership when their respective games are aired. We also can’t forget that we live in one of the biggest hockey cultures in the world. Even if soccer is growing in Montreal, it will never reach the heights of the bleu-blanc-rouge.
This issue was further brought to light when I covered the first leg of the Impact’s tie against the Columbus Crew. In the press box, almost every journalist from Montreal’s major outlets was more concerned with the score of the Habs game against the Winnipeg Jets instead of the history that was unfolding before their very eyes. This was the Impact’s first-ever semi-final appearance and their eyes were glued to their computer for the hockey score. In fact, when the Canadiens were up by a score of five to one, it got more high-fives and smiles than when Johan Venegas scored the go-ahead goal.
Moreover, the coverage the Impact does get is often reduced to the ‘Didier Drogba’ effect. The Ivorian is clearly a world class player but his performances do not account for every Impact win, as it is lazily being made out to be. The work of Mauro Biello since his appointment as manager has been completely disregarded and the team’s success has largely been attributed to the exploits of the former Chelsea striker. Laurent Ciman’s performances are another aspect of the Montreal Impact that are barely getting the recognition they deserve by the mainstream media here.
While it would be rather foolish on my part to demand equal coverage between the Canadiens and the Impact, something needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.