Here’s an unfortunate incident that will likely cause you to shake your head: the Toronto Star has come under fire for an unfortunate error in their August 16 report on the passing of Rick Rypien in which they misquoted Gillis referring to Rypien — whose struggles with mental illness are now coming to light — as “crazy”.

Yeah. That happened, and I may be understating things when I say that it probably shouldn’t have. Here’s how it did: the original quote was drawn from an Iain MacIntyre article from last November in which Gillis addressed Rypien’s leave of absence by saying:

When you come to know somebody and realize they’re a really good person…You don’t only support them when they’re at the top of their game…you support them when they’re not feeling good about things or have other issues they have to deal with.”

Solid quote, especially since Gillis didn’t say Rypien was crazy. The quote was pulled from Wikipedia, however, and by then it had been ever-so-slightly altered (which is why you’re not supposed to use Wikipedia as a source — truthfully, if anybody deserves to have his ankle tethered to a horse, it’s the twerp who made this edit):

When you come to know somebody and realize they’re a really good person, but crazy…You don’t only support them when they’re at the top of their game…you support them when they’re not feeling good about things or have other issues they have to deal with.”

The Star failed to catch the change, which, needless to say, was a regrettable error. When they finally did, it was apology time:

An Aug. 16 article about the death of former Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien misquoted Canucks general manager Mike Gillis as having referred to Rypien as “crazy” in an interview with the Vancouver Sun last November when Rypien took a personal leave from the Canucks. In fact, Gillis never said that [...] The Star apologizes for this error.

The Canucks are apparently considering legal action, which makes sense considering this is a sensitive issue (and Gillis tends to get pretty shabby treatment from those guys), but this seems like an honest mistake. They happen. For instance, the Province might be interested in knowing that Dave Semenko’s still alive:

“With the Canucks, Gillis said, drugs and alcohol were never the problem for Rypien. In fact, he was loath to take even the drugs that were prescribed to him. It’s not the only thing which would separate him from some of the other troubled heavyweights who have died early in life, including Dave Semenko, Bob Probert, John Kordic and Derek Boogaard.”

Apparently someone told them, because the mistake is gone from Botch’s web version, but it’s in print. Like I said, mistakes happen, especially when you’re rushing to meet tight deadlines and don’t have time for one more once-over.

I’m sure Gillis would love to stick it to media out East, who have a tendency to treat him with disregard (like, for instance, when they insinuate he’s just the benefactor of Brian Burke’s extraordinary team-building, basking in a vault full of superstars like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin, or when they try to link him to alleged sex offenders), but if the Canucks are wise, they’ll just let this one go. It won’t be long before someone in their organization makes an honest mistake as well and they require the same level of understanding.

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41 comments

  1. Timmy Wong
    August 17, 2011

    Legal action…what are we, James Engquist?

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  2. GM11
    August 17, 2011

    I usually agree with you Harrison but this is not just a little mistake that should be forgotten. Mike Gillis has every right to be furious over this. He cared a lot for Rick Rypien’s well being, and the organization went out of their way to get him the help he needed while protecting him from the media. To have a newspaper misquote him as saying Rypien was “crazy” is not an acceptable error. A professional writer should know better than to use Wikipedia as a source. It’s offensive to think that someone being paid to be a journalist is that lazy. The Canucks should absolutely take legal action and donate any money awarded to them to a charity for mental health treatment.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      August 17, 2011

      Fair. I think it’s a pretty brutal error, and I agree that Gillis should be furious. I just don’t think he should sue, because I don’t think this incident was the product of malice.

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      • GM11
        August 17, 2011

        It probably wasn’t the product of malice but it definitely was the product of negligence, which deserves more than a half assed apology on page 2 the next day. Unfortunately, this story has taken away from talking about Rick Rypien the person. Whatever happens out of this unfortunate “gaffe” will happen, for now I should go back to remembering Ryp.

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        • Harrison Mooney
          August 17, 2011

          I agree with this 100%.

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  3. Lane
    August 17, 2011

    This isn’t a gaffe……..I hope Gillis sues the Toronto Star and donates the proceeds to an

    organization that helps people deal with mental health issues.Newspapers are going the way of the dodo bird and this is just another reason why.

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    • Muddy
      August 17, 2011

      I agree.

      How do you “accidentally” add the words “but crazy” to the quote of a person? This was no accident. The Toronto Star was either hoping to sensationalize the story or had a hidden agenda against the Canucks organization.

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  4. Babaganoush
    August 17, 2011

    Is the Star to Toronto what the Province is to Vancouver? It sounds like it (the “star”), but I can’t be sure.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      August 17, 2011

      Hmm. I’m not sure. I don’t know how the papers are connected.

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    • Nao
      August 17, 2011

      The Toronto Star is more like the Vancouver Sun. The Toronto Sun is more like the Vancouver Province.

      I’m surprised that the Star made such a bad error. I guess in a time where news is mass produced at a high speed, columnists make stupid mistakes like this with their efforts are more into getting the article done in time than to taking the time to find and confirm a reliable source and write something of quality.

      And I agree with Harrison that it’s more of a bad mistake than a mistake with bad intent.
      I think the organization should focus on the loss of Rick rather than to get all nit-picky about small things like this (and yes, this is ‘small’ because this is so much smaller than the loss of a life…)

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      • Babaganoush
        August 17, 2011

        Thanks for the clarification. That’s more unfortunate then.

        Somewhat subtle dig at the Province, glad it wasn’t Harrison that took the bite haha

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      • Muddy
        August 17, 2011

        Mistakes are typos. Nobody adds the words “but crazy” to a story unless it was intentionally done. If the columnist makes those kind of mistakes, he/she should never have been hired to begin with.

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        • Harrison Mooney
          August 17, 2011

          It’s not a typo. But it is a mistake. The writer merely copied the quote from Wikipedia without looking it over. Like Daniel said elsewhere, if the Star actually had a hidden agenda to slander the Canucks organization, the article would have been structured much, much differently and the incendiary quote would have been given a much more prominent role.

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  5. Curt
    August 17, 2011

    “It won’t be long before someone in their organization makes an honest mistake as well and they require the same level of understanding.”

    If the media flogging the Canucks and our fan base took over the course of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs is any indication, any level of understanding (or unbiased coverage for that matter) isn’t likely to be coming our way.

    Missing the change is not just an unfortunate error or oversight. If you’re a reputable publication and are printing something that’s clearly got controversy written all over it, it’s not too much to expect that said publication would check their sources or show some form of diligence. Gillis and the Canucks have every right to be outraged about this situation. Regardless of it’s intent, the effect it’s had cannot be disputed, especially at this tragic time while Canuck Nation mourns Rypien’s passing. They should absolutely take the Sun to task for this irresponsible and insulting mis-quote.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      August 17, 2011

      Question is, did this clearly have controversy written all over it? The original article is just your basic Reporting 101, with no hint of controversy whatsoever. It’s not like the writer took the Gillis misquote and drew attention to it. Indeed, the fact that he didn’t indicates that this was simply a mistake. The writer was likely on the Rypien wikipedia page checking some information (which is certainly a problem) and copied the quote from Gillis, which he likely had seen earlier when it was first released, and inserted it in the article, likely not even noticing the “but crazy” part of it.

      It’s certainly shoddy journalism, but it did not seem that the writer even noticed the word “crazy.” If he had, the article itself would likely have been much different.

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      • Curt
        August 17, 2011

        Printing in a publication like the Toronto Sun, regarding the death of a hockey player in which you cite a quote from the players former GM in which he allegedly calls the player ‘crazy’. Shoddy journalism is an understatement. Someone had to proof-read and edit the article. Nobody saw the potential for controversy? My kids are told not to use wikipedia as a source in school projects for reasons exactly like this. A national newspaper has lesser standards than a grade 5 class?

        Again, while it may not have been done with malicious intent (although that’s certainly up for debate) , that doesn’t make the error any more acceptable.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          August 17, 2011

          I never said it was acceptable. But I honestly think that the writer of the article didn’t even see the word “crazy” in the quote. If he had, then that changes the entire article that he’s writing. You just don’t let something like that slide. If, as a reporter, you see a quote like that, you take notice and write an article about it after checking your source to make sure the quote is accurate.

          That they completely missed that they got the quote wrong and that the writer got the quote from Wikipedia are problems, but they’re problems on a different level than maliciously misrepresenting someone.

          As for proof-reading and editing…I think you overestimate the amount of time they have to put these things together. There’s a reason this was given to the rookie to write: it’s a bog-standard article that other writers and editors didn’t want to spend their time on. The editors likely glanced through it for typos and such and put it up. Again, inexcusable and unacceptable, but also an understandable error.

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          • Muddy
            August 17, 2011

            @Daniel

            Two things to mention:

            1. This is the death of an NHL player by suicide in Canada. If that does not have controversy written all over it, I am not sure what does in this country.

            2. There was never any mention of Rypien being crazy on wikipedia. I checked the history, and went on wikipedia when I first heard the news.

            Just sayin’

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            • Harrison Mooney
              August 17, 2011

              Follow the link to Wikipedia in the article, Muddy. It shows the change. The revision is in red and was made in July.

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              • Muddy
                August 17, 2011

                oops….my bad.

                I had checked the history after his death was announced. It appears “but crazy” was added months before his passing. I guess there is a reason I am not a journalist;)

                Regardless, I wonder why the Star used wikipedia for a reference to perhaps the biggest hockey story all summer.

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              • Harrison Mooney
                August 17, 2011

                I’ll tell you why. Here’s what I’ve learned in my brief experience with the papers: in the summer, a lot of the sports staff go on vacation and they’re replaced by temps. Usually, these temps are fresh out of J-school or still in it; they’re inexperienced and prone to mistakes. And if a big story like Rypien passing away breaks after everyone else has gone home and it’s just the late-deskers and the temps, things like this are bound to happen. Looks like the kid that wrote the article was a temp, and he may not have been that knowledgeable when it comes to sports, especially Vancouver sports. He was probably trying to rush the article out as quickly as possible after briefing himself on Wikipedia, and he made a stupid mistake in trusting and skimming a Wiki’d quote. That’s all. Seriously, no malice whatsoever. Just an inexperienced kid showing his inexperience. Honestly, I feel bad for him.

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    • peanutflower
      August 17, 2011

      I’m not sure there’s any element of controversy here either, but it is definitely a shoddy effort. Even schoolchildren are taught to disregard Wikipedia as a fact source.

      I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with your comment about the media flogging during the playoffs. I can honestly say that by the time the SCF was over I felt sad, sure, but overwhelmingly relieved that I didn’t have to read the crap that was written about the city, the fans and the team every single stinking day. I know, I know, no one forced me to read the newspaper or the blog or whatever, but who could help it? I am relishing the two or so months before the start of the season where I no longer feel defensive all the time. Feels pretty good!

      On a much more somber note, it’s time professional sports dropped their don’t ask/don’t tell policies around mental health issues, homosexuality, addiction and whatever else athletes feel they have to cover up for. In some article somewhere — I forget just now — the writer said that even Rypien’s own team mates at times didn’t know he suffered from depression. It’s pretty sad to think that if he had felt able to talk to someone more openly he’d still be with us pounding the crap out of whoever thought they were big enough to beat him.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        August 17, 2011

        I’ve had people very close to me suffer from depression. and it’s very difficult for them to work up the courage to talk to me or anyone else. All these reports that Rypien didn’t feel comfortable talking to his teammates are overblown and show a distinct lack of understanding in regards to what depression does to a person. Closeted depression has little to do with the locker room mentality. Usually, it’s a symptom of the depression and it affects plenty of people who don’t spend their lives in incredibly masculine environments.

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  6. chris
    August 17, 2011

    Lets just hope this was human error and nobody in their right mind would intentionally publish that.

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  7. Aaron
    August 17, 2011

    It’s the Toronto star its not like anyone took them seriously in the first place. They print nonsense all the time, particularly elections. I can’t believe they print some of the stuff they do. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/962165–mallick-what-if-harper-s-dream-of-a-majority-comes-true

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  8. Hasan Juma
    August 17, 2011

    Good article! I agree, to a certain extent. It’s abundantly clear that this was just an error on the part of the reporter, but more care was needed in terms of verifying the quote, especially dealing with such a subject as this one. The quote definitely sounds off and using Wikipedia as a source is playing with fire – a professional journalist should know this. I understand Gillis’ anger over the misquote, he and the entire organization had a lot of time for Rick Rypien. This is like salt in a fresh wound.

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  9. REM
    August 18, 2011

    How could any writer or proofreader think that was legitimate? Even within the context of the whole quote it stands out as totally different than the overall tone. If that’s the result of a rush to publish then what we’re being told is never trust anything you read in a daily newspaper wbecause they don’t have the time to check anything.

    I agree that a prolonged lawsuit doesn’t make sense, but using the threat as leverage to extract a sizeable donation to Canuck Place would be a suitable end to this.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      August 18, 2011

      “If that’s the result of a rush to publish then what we’re being told is never trust anything you read in a daily newspaper wbecause they don’t have the time to check anything.”

      I didn’t say it, you did.

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      • REM
        August 18, 2011

        In the last 20 years I’ve always taken the “news” with a large grain of salt whether it’s print or especially on TV. So not trusting anything is second nature. It’s just a bit scary that everybody is so forgiving of a blatant mistake – like it’s expected. Pretty sad level of expectation.

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  10. White Rock
    August 18, 2011

    For the record about three weeks ago I was looking at Rypien’s Wikipedia entry and someone had added the words “crazy head” to his name. I sent a general e-mail to the Winnipeg Jets and received a quick response that they’d look into the matter. A few minutes later the change had been made.

    Might be best that Gillis let this one go and forget that it happened.

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  11. J21
    August 18, 2011

    Yeah, this isn’t a case of malice. The mistake is very unfortunate given the context, but the only real “controversy” is that a newspaper with as high an opinion of itself as the Ivory Tower-dwelling Toronto Star used Wikipedia as a source, and deserve to be fully ridiculed for that. Suing wouldn’t do anything but make people dump on the Canucks even more than they already do.

    The concern that I think Gillis recognizes (though suing won’t help this), is, to quote Midnight Oil, “The words got out there, they’re floating around, and coming right back down. Are you going to leave us lying here, dealing with the consequences of a bad sound?”

    There are a lot of idiots in this world, and as a result people still believe that the comical Protocols of the Elders of Zion are real, people still believe that Mariah Carey made an outlandish quote about envying starving children in Africa for their thinness (the “flies and death and stuff” quote), and people still believe that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet when he did no such thing. So if forgery, satire and a quote out of context can cause media sensations (and in the case of the first one, far far worse than that), think what errors can do.

    Once stupid words get out there, especially in the Internet age, they don’t go away, because there’s always someone young, stupid, naïve or malicious enough to give them new life, and an ever-increasing population base containing others willing to believe it. I think Gillis is afraid that people are going to be accusing him of inventing the Internet, so to speak, years after the fact, and he has every right to be outraged about that. “Hey, isn’t that the guy who called his own player crazy???”

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  12. Emily
    August 18, 2011

    What a horrible thing to say if it is true.
    Depression is a serious disease and people should show compassion. Rypien was most likely ashamed to talk about it to friends or teammates and he might of thought they would think he was ‘crazy’. In depression people just don’t have the energy to talk about too.
    What a sad sad story

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  13. Demetre
    August 19, 2011

    Seriously now… all this frothing at the mouth over a tragedy… the dog days of summer have gone mad! RIP Ryper

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  14. Aussie Canuck
    August 19, 2011

    So if you are employing temps over the summer, who don’t know what they are doing, then why are you still charging the same price for your paper? Incidentally, as a university lecturer, we ALWAYS tell students NOT to use Wikipedia as a source. So using the inexperienced line is absolute rubbish. I can only assume that the coffee boy who wrote the article was fired. A paper should have minimum standards, and this paper has sunk well below them. This is disgraceful and in no way an honest mistake. But you do win. I have never heard of your newspaper before today, and I can assure you I am no richer in life for knowing of its existence now.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      August 19, 2011

      Our newspaper? What?

      I don’t think you understand: we don’t entirely disagree with you. It is disgraceful. It is inexcusable to use Wikipedia as a source. The guy who wrote the article probably could be fired. At the same time, it’s a mistake. A regrettable mistake, certainly, but just a mistake.

      We sincerely apologize for not enriching your life. Though I still have no idea why you think we own (or even work for) the Toronto Star. But, since you are a university lecturer, you probably have syllabi to put together and should not waste your time understanding how writing about a publication is not equivalent to working for said publication.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        August 19, 2011

        Uh oh. You made Daniel angry. Good thing he wears remarkably stretchy purple undershorts.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          August 19, 2011

          Bruce Banner always makes a big deal about people not liking him when he’s angry, but honestly, most people are pretty surly and unlikable when they’re angry. I don’t like most people when they’re angry. Bruce Banner should be more clear: You’re making me angry. And I turn into a giant green monster and destroy entire cities when I’m angry.

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  15. Melissa W.
    August 20, 2011

    It was an intern who dug up the source apparently. But in any case, it was shoddy journalism, whether it was an intern or a pro. The person who was supervising this individual’s internship should also be held liable for this sort of behaviour.

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  16. Dylan K.
    August 21, 2011

    Shoddy journalism happens. It’s a mistake. What I want to know is who the fuck thought it would be funny to change a quote to Mike Gillis calling one of his players ‘crazy’. Who ever you are, fuck you. That wasn’t ok when he was alive and it sure as hell isn’t ok now.

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  17. ADRIAN SINGHE
    August 24, 2011

    Typical – a media agent protecting a media agent. From the pack of self-proclaimed infallibles.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      August 24, 2011

      Wait, when have we ever claimed to be the Pope? I demand a source for that outrageous accusation!

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