Get the Foxes straight

In their Feb. 13 coverage discussing predictions for the final Olympic torchbearer, NBC’s Today Show mixed up marathoner Terry Fox and actor Michael J. Fox, both prominent Canadians.

NBC reporter Meredith Vieria mentioned Betty Fox, who is the mother of Terry Fox, as a possible candidate for the final torchbearer. Vieria mistakenly called Betty Fox’s son Michael. Then a photo of the young Terry Fox, fading to a photo of Michael J. Fox, filled the screen.

To a Canadian audience, the reporting error is major and inexcusable. NBC’s fact-checkers should have picked up on the difference between Terry Fox, who ran across the country on one leg in 1980 to raise funds for cancer research, and Michael J. Fox, an actor who starred in the Back to the Future trilogy and who is also a public figure for Parkinson’s Disease.

Terry Fox died in 1981. Michael J. Fox recently wrote a book and features prominently in British Columbia tourism commercials during Olympic coverage.

It’s dishearteningly ignorant that NBC’s coverage implies Terry Fox and Michael J. Fox are the same person.

As one of Canada’s most well-known heroes who grew up in B.C., Terry Fox is a significant figure who represents the athletic spirit at the heart of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.

But regardless of which country he comes from, Terry Fox is a hero. Ideally, his story should be recognized worldwide as his message of courage doesn’t apply only to Canadians.

However, it isn’t reasonable to expect Americans to know all the details about Canadian heroes. There are certainly national heroes south of the border that we, as Canadians, are unfamiliar with.

Regardless of what ordinary Americans should be expected to know, the media is held to a higher standard of accuracy. The news is a major tool used to entertain and educate people, and NBC’s error demonstrates carelessness for their material.

NBC’s mixup is yet another example of how little serious attention Americans tend to pay their friendly neighbours to the north.

It’s discouraging appropriate research wasn’t done to represent Canada in the most accurate light in NBC’s coverage—all it would have taken is a quick Google search to present the right facts. NBC wasn’t obligated to delve into Terry Fox’s history, but if a network chooses to cover an angle, they should be expected to do it right.

NBC’s error wasn’t just a slip of the tongue, but a categorical error with a flawed lineup of photos depicting two entirely different men. This incident demonstrates a stunning level of ignorance that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of NBC’s Olympic reporting.

In addition to being about the spirit of sport, the Olympic Games also aim to educate people about the host city and country. It’s important to get the facts straight and give important national figures the respect they deserve.

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