CBC News website lost in translation

 I check the CBC News website every day. I can usually depend on it to tell me if something big is happening in Canada.

But, for a national news organization, presumably writing for people across the country, too many of its stories read like neighbourhood news composed by a teenage journalism student.

This summer, I made note of a headline on a lead item: Benoit Cote and Marie-Josee Sills, Terrebonne shooting victims, die in hospital.

Who are these people? Where is Terrebonne? Why should I read on?

Last week, I was drawn to the headline on this lead story: Suspect in custody after 1 person shot dead near Wilno, Ont., OPP say.

The subhead: Fatal shooting occurred just before 9 a.m. ET on Szczipior Road, OPP report.

I was interested in the story because I traveled to Wilno – following up on tales of vampires – for Maclean’s magazine 35 years ago.

I couldn’t stop reading the CBC report because – from first line to last – it was a journalistic train derailment.

Start with this in the subhead: Szczipior Road.

Sorry, I don’t read Polish.

Here is the rest of the mess:

A 57-year-old suspect has been arrested after a person was shot dead near the community of Wilno, Ont., between Barry’s Bay and Killaloe, about 180 kilometres west of Ottawa, provincial police say.

At least the geography zooms out from Szczipior Road. But few Canadians are familiar with Wilno, Barry’s Bay or Killaloe. Ottawa helps.

The fatal shooting occurred just before 9 a.m. ET on Szczipior Road, OPP said.

There’s that unpronounceable road again.

Ottawa police said early Tuesday afternoon that the gunman, a male whose age and description were not provided, may have been heading to the Ottawa area.

Was he walking or driving in that direction?

Police sources told CBC News the suspect was recently released from prison.

Pretty serious stuff to be hanging on unidentified sources.

Officers had been actively monitoring the situation and deployed officers to the west end, Ottawa police said.

West end of where? What does “actively monitoring” mean?

Police on Tuesday morning were also searching in addition to monitoring? – an area about a half-hour drive southeast of Wilno, between the communities of Cormac and Lake Clear, closer to Pembroke.

Three more places few Canadians can point to on a map. Too bad you didn’t provide one. Also note: This story is on the WORLDwide web.

OPP said a “major investigation” was underway on Foymount Road, which is Highway 512, near Dunnigan Road.

Two more roads somewhere and a highway with a number. Was this written by a gas station attendant you asked for directions?

Residents in the affected areas were being asked to stay inside and immediately call 911 to report any suspicious activity, said Sgt. Kristine Rae.

Affected areas? You mean Szczipior Road, or those other two roads? Or all those towns?

Schools, courthouses and other sites in the affected communities were locked down as a precaution.

What’s another site? A homesite? Gravesite? Campsite? Website? Parasite?

All lockdowns have now been lifted, OPP said.

What a relief – that there are no more avenues to navigate in this pile of dung.


Time now to recall my hunt for vampires in Wilno.

When I visited in the late winter of 1980, I learned that little had changed since the village was established by a few hundred Polish immigrants more than a century earlier.

Most of the residents still spoke with each other in Polish, the Kashubian dialect of their homeland.

And, as the first Polish settlement in Canada, Wilno had attracted scholars and journalists over the years.

“Some of them have smeared us,” the parish priest at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church told me. “Articles with crazy things, that we were vampires and such.”

In 1968, the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies examined the linguistic and folkloric characteristics of the Poles in Wilno.

Four years later, the National Museum of Man – its name has since been emasculated – published the results of the study, titled: Vampires, Dwarfs and Witches Among the Ontario Kashubs.

In 1973, The Canadian magazine, quoting extensively from the study, ran a story headlined: Count Dracula in Canada? They Worry About Vampires in Wilno, Ont.

Not long after that the National Enquirer and other tabloid scavengers arrived.

I didn’t find any vampires, just a bunch of wizened old Polish-Canadians who feared their village, language and traditions would die with them.

“There’s nothing to do in Wilno,” I was told by one man in his 60s, a second-generation Canadian who spoke English with a Polish accent. “We’ll survive. But the young won’t stay.”

I wrote a sad and sympathetic story for a March 1980 issue of Maclean’s.

The first half-page of text was under the headline: A village dying for faith and pride.

Filling the rest of the page was a photo of smiling, suntanned, bare-chested young men and bikini-topped young women on a beach, beneath palm trees, puffy white clouds and blue sky.

The Club Med logo is barely visible on the ad.

But the locale was clearly not Szczipior Road.


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