Reporter expresses "regret" for "Deadmonton" article

Robert Philip, the Daily Telegraph's man at the world track and field championships, says he is sorry. Well kind of.

The British reporter raised hackles earlier in the competition with a column on Edmonton. Since then, he has become a story in himself.

"To date, I have received 37 interview requests from television, radio and papers and, on a day when a Canadian woman sprinter was thrown out of the world athletics championships as a drug cheat, 'twas I who topped the bill on Global TV's 11 p.m. news roundup," he wrote in his column Thursday in the English paper.

"Those of you familiar with my witterings will be wondering what on earth I have done to deserve such celebrity?" he added. "In all modesty, not a lot.

"I have quoted an unnamed British athlete as describing the Alberta capital as `Deadmonton,' I have remarked on the `visually unappealing' nature of the place and poked gentle fun at one newspaper headline above a report on the men's marathon which read: Gritty Canadian Thrills Crowd with Gutsy Run for 42nd Spot.

"As a result of all this, to which I plead guilty, I cannot now walk through my hotel lobby without being shadowed by an intrepid TV interviewer and cameraman complete with lights and boom microphone."

Another Telegraph story, on the front page Tuesday under the headline Telegraph Man Causes Small Sensation in Canada, remarked upon the brouhaha.

"The image of Canada as a clean, civilized, but ever-so-slightly dull country is one of those enduring national stereotypes acknowledged on the quiet even by Canadians themselves," wrote Sally Pook. "But, it seems, even the famously tolerant Canadian populace has a breaking point.

"That point was reached this week when Robert Philip, who is covering the world athletics championships in Edmonton for The Telegraph, chose to commit his thoughts on the city to paper ... Yesterday, he awoke to find himself the most reviled person between Newfoundland and British Columbia."

The story quoted Philip as unrepentant, saying he stood by his words, although he regretted causing offence.

"It was supposed to be a humorous piece but perhaps humour does not travel," he said. "I woke up this morning to find my picture all over the newspapers.

"I am public enemy No. 1."

The notoriety has been a first for Philip, he said.

"Having arrived in Canada barely a household name in my own household (when my son first saw my picture byline in the Daily Telegraph he remarked over the breakfast table: `Are the police looking for you, daddy?'), I have suddenly become Edmonton's most wanted man. It is impossible to open a newspaper without seeing my haunted visage.

"If the sight of me staring out at him seriously discombobulated my own son, heaven only knows what it must be doing to the unsuspecting kiddies of Edmonton."

In his own column, Philip offered an olive branch.

"I regret causing my hosts, who have been unfailingly welcoming (although that may change now I have been splashed across their TV screens and front pages) such grievous offence and, as a man of my word, I will now say something nice about Edmonton ... Errr ...

"Oh, yes, the city's No 1 tourist attraction is the West Edmonton Mall, the world's largest shopping and entertainment centre, boasting 800 stores, 110 dining outlets, 20 movie theatres, the world's largest indoor amusement park containing a roller-coaster, the world's largest indoor wave pool, the world's largest indoor lake with an exact replica of Columbus's Santa Maria, an 18-hole miniature golf course, an NHL-sized ice rink, a Las Vegas-style casino, dolphins, bears and what have you.

"It covers 48 city blocks (115 football pitches) and consumers who do not feel up to walking can hire an electric scooter or ride in a rickshaw. There, does that not sound appealing?"

But still he wonders why all the fuss.

"What puzzles this observer is that if Edmontonians are so confident about their city's greatness, why do they give a monkey's about what some visiting hack might think? But they do."