It was perfect timing for a Quebec restaurant chain: the dog days of summer — the two-week construction holiday — when many people are on vacation, including media executives and reporters and editors.

News can be pretty slow during that period, and many newsrooms (virtually speaking this year) are staffed by interns and rookies. There may not be as much oversight, and any news that generates reader clicks is seen as a plus.

No news this summer? What about the heat domes and the wildfires and the floods, you might be wondering.

Montreal has been mostly unaffected, save for the smog from northern Ontario wildfires that has drifted into Quebec and has been shrouding the city, depending on which way the wind blows.

Sure, the smoke has been a story in this city, and all media outlets here have reported on it. But there hasn’t been any real sense of alarm. Instead, what some environmentalists feel should have been THE major news story this week took a back seat to “the draft choice” by the Montreal Canadiens (a.k.a. the Habs).

As many readers may know, hockey is a religion in Quebec, and the Montreal Canadiens are the deity. They burp, and the media are all over it. And readers can’t get enough. Every single move by the team’s staff and players is analyzed and second-guessed by the media and the fan base, and reader clicks soar. I’m not guessing when I say Habs coverage generates more clicks than any other news on Quebec media sites. And some of the sites milk it for everything they can.

So when news broke last week that the Habs had drafted an 18-year-old who had been convicted as a minor for uploading to the web an intimate picture of a female and him having sex and then bragging about it to his buddies, the media went nuts.

The virtue signalling by jock sports writers was enough to make me — and many others — vomit. Never mind that the kid was convicted in a Swedish court and forced to pay a fine. Never mind that he apologized and even asked the Montreal Canadiens to hold off a year on drafting him. Never mind that under Canadian law, the names of minors who have committed crimes are not allowed to be published and that he — now 18 — chose to out himself for the offence. Never mind that he won’t actually play for the Habs for at least two years, if ever, depending on how things work out for him on a farm team. Never mind that the Canadiens knew about his record and were promising to help him. Never mind that the player himself could use this as a lesson to teach other young men. Never mind that crucifying him in public went far beyond the penalty the court imposed.

Even the prime minister felt the need to virtue signal on the subject — someone who has shown serious lack of judgment on many occasions (and who lost my vote this week).

The media ripped the team for choosing the kid, saying it sends a bad message to women and men. Yada, yada, yada. Like he was the first adolescent male to ever do anything like that. Like no other sports personality has done anything like this. Like all the sports writers never bragged about their sexual exploits when they were young and stupid — before the internet era when they couldn’t boast online.

Did I mention that it all made me sick? Yes, I did, but I didn’t mention that I was never so ashamed to be part of the media establishment as I am this week.

But the media were not the only ones to take advantage of the situation. A chain of a chicken eateries suddenly felt the need to let it be known that they disagreed with the draft choice and would now think about dropping their ads from the rink boards at the Bell Centre, where the Canadiens play at home. Not WOULD remove the ads, which they call “sponsorship.” They MIGHT.

The media seized on that statement and ran with it. And the restaurant chain got more publicity than they have ever had, and it didn’t cost them anything. Surely the marketing director will get a nice bonus this year.

Of course I’m not going to mention the name of the restaurant chain here. I’m not giving them free publicity. I’ve seen similar cases in journalism before: companies or others with an agenda wait for slow news periods when a lot of people are on vacation — e.g. Christmas break — to release questionable news statements. I remember one Christmas break when the Raelians issued a press release saying they had successfully cloned a human being.Yup. Some news services ran with it. It was great FREE publicity for the Raelians, and, no, they didn’t really clone a human being.

It was a ridiculous story, but no more ridiculous than a chicken restaurant chain virtue signalling about a Habs draft choice, considering that the chain is part of a cruel industry that tortures and murders animals and profits from that endless cycle of suffering and misery. And before I became a vegetarian, I did dine on some of that chain’s offerings, and the food was awful: overcooked, overpriced, small portions. Their chicken and their french fries were the worst I had ever sampled in my entire life.

But they got a ton of free publicity this week — and I don’t think for a moment that they will follow through on pulling their ads from the Bell Centre. They simply capitalized on media madness this week, whether they were sincere or not.

But if they do pull their board ads, score one for vegetarians, animal rights activists, PETA and anyone else who cares about all creatures great and small.

— Jillian