Courtney Shea, Gluten and the Crap That Passes For Journalism These Days


The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper.

It’s been in print for 167 years.

As per their own website, it’s “an essential read for Canadians who want in-depth reporting on the issues, facts and opinions that affect our domestic landscape and the world at large.”

It’s got a readership of 3.3 million people.

In other words, it’s the real deal.

So how the hell do they allow an article in their newspaper, written by one Courtney Shea, titled “How I lived without gluten for one week”??

Here’s the link.

The article is part of a weekly challenge that “tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.”

Why anybody in their right mind would think giving up gluten for seven days would 1) be that challenging (it’s 7 days!);  2) lead to self-improvement; or 3) be interesting to read about, is beyond me.

But hey…I didn’t go to journalism school, so what do I know.

Let’s break down some of the fascinating tidbits:

You already know that going gluten-free is the Atkins craze for a new decade of dieters, with “wheat” occupying the same dirty-word status once held by carbs.

She’s not off to a bad start…except that gluten is not the same thing as wheat.

Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus shared their tales of wheatless weight loss earlier this year.

Courtney…repeat after me. Gluten is not just wheat. Although I do like the fact that she seems as disgusted with the pseudo-celebs as the rest of us.

I began Operation: G-Free by contemplating my own wheat-related issues. I don’t have celiac, but the far more common “gluten sensitivity”.

Ok…I give up Courtney. You think it’s just wheat…run with it.

My biggest trepidation about going gluten-free over Thanksgiving weekend was missing out on mashed potatoes.

How about a little research Courtney before embarking on your “challenge”? Don’t be a lazy journalist. If you really want to know what it’s like to go gluten-free, you need to educate yourself first.

I didn’t notice a lot of change in my experiment. I lost three pounds, but that’s likely the result of paying attention to what I put in my mouth. And being under the mistaken impression that regular chips contain gluten, which meant abandoning my late-night binging ritual.

Did she really expect to feel anything in seven days? And yes Courtney, most chips are just fine.

The most significant takeaway was my discomfort over politely refusing food in other people’s homes because of my diet. Normally, I am the one rolling her eyes at the guest with the annoying dietary restrictions, which I now realize is mean and unfair.

So normally, you’re kind of mean-spirited. Nice. If anything, perhaps this “challenge” has made you a more tolerant person.

But Courtney, don’t you think the article would have been much better if you really tried to live like a celiac? If you really immersed yourself in our life, even if it was just for a week?

If you went to a few restaurants and had to ask the waiter 100 questions…

If you went food shopping for 3 hours because you had to read the labels so carefully (and spent twice the money)…

If you avoided all possibilities of cross-contamination in your own kitchen…

Those are a few of the many “challenges” we face.

It came across to me that you had no idea what you were doing. It was a total half-assed effort.

So then why do the “challenge” and write an article about it??

Gluten-free is not a joke or something to experiment with on the fly for one week.

It’s not something you can do without a hell of a lot of research ahead of time to understand what gluten-free truly means.

This world needs great journalists Courtney. It really does.

And there’s nothing wrong with light-hearted articles that are meant simply to entertain.

But it doesn’t mean they should be lazy.

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16 thoughts on “Courtney Shea, Gluten and the Crap That Passes For Journalism These Days”

  1. Wendy - PalmTreesGlutenFree

    OMG Mashed Potatoes???!!!

    Amazing what people are allowed to do, say and get paid for it as well.

    Sad that this will potentially be read by over 3 million people.



    This makes my head explode. I agree with everything you have said! What a freaking joke.

  3. Although her experiment and lack of preperation is severely lacking, I am glad that she commented on having more tolerence and appreciation for the GF army who aren’t just trying it out. We need to people to understand.

  4. Is she a journalist? I can’t tell. She’s writing a special column on one week challenges to do different things. Her Twitter handle doesn’t reflect one of a journalist, either. (@CocoShea)

    Gluten Dude, I think we’ve got to think outside of our zone right now. I get asked zomg, like, every time I go out to a restaurant if potatoes are gluten free. Most people *really* don’t know.

    I give her credit for announcing her change in opinion about folks with dietary concerns are not just picky guests. I also give her credit for noticing that her weight loss was NOT from the gluten elimination but from noticing what she put in her mouth.

    The sad part about the article is that its online. It will remain around forever, in search results, for people to read. At least most of the comments are positive about how and why to eat gluten free.

    To turn this to a positive note…

    I have been doing an MBA class and our business plan proposal has been to build a gluten free and nut free bakery. At least half of the question and answer sessions for each presentation (we’re up to 6 so far) has been “ask me any question about gluten” and “dispel the rumor time” so that people can ask their honest questions about what gluten is without feeling stupid or get the TV soundbite answer. I’ve undone weeks of stupid columns like this with real, practical answers.

    What’s now happened is well illustrated by this chat I had with one of my teammates over the weekend: “As I walked into Panera today, a family was in here. The mom was asking all sorts of questions. Come to find out, because they sat close to me, the mom of the family can’t have gluten. Everyone else in the family could, but it sounded like she is still fairly new to not eating Gluten. I just thought it was interesting, two months ago, I would not have even paid attention.”

    I think we affect people more by positive change, and I’m really proud of my teammate for starting to notice the issue on a practical level. It will lead her to be a more tolerant person over the rest of her life.

  5. Reminds me of two semi-recent situations they are equally annoying as that half assed journalist.

    1. Thanksgiving circa 2011, 2010…etcetc.

    Person related to me but not me: “It’s turkey, it not really meat. Besides it’s Thanksgiving.”
    Me: “Seriously…? It’s not really meat, then just what the bleep is it???”

    2. Dominoes (ya, i know you posted on theis GD, allow me to vent…)
    Me: “Hi, is your GF pizza really gluten free….?”
    Dominoes: “Welll. Um yeah.” “Well the toppings are gluten free.”
    Me=Smartass; “So I should just order the toppings without the pizza to be sure…”
    Dominoes; “I’m not sure we do that…”
    *the rest of the conversation went downhill from there.

    My poiht being, unless you truly are affected or are educated about this POV shut the hell up. Just because gluten free living is getting notice does not equal a trending story. Thanks for using us Courtenay to boost your story.

    Jersey Girl

  6. I taught journalism courses for a few years.

    There is no investigative premise (she started off poorly because wheat free is not gluten free)

    therefore, the rest of the article is….useless.

    I give it a D for :

    D on’t write about something unless you D o some research first.

    …. and this article is not just mere fluff, it is the equivalent of those
    dust bunnies that continuously gather under my bed, despite my constant cleaning and make me wonder…”oh, come on! how on earth did they get under there AGAIN?”

    Now, that might have made a good investigative article and would have given me some valuable information! 🙂

    As for the concept that it is part of a series for “tackling self-improvement” well, at least she admits she has learned to be more empathetic to others with health conditions and specific dietary needs and stop making fun of them.

    Finally learning to be polite and kind at her age is an improvement in her character, I guess.

    This is why I did not give it an F.

  7. Gluten Dude, write the newspaper and offer to give a follow up…you know a REAL life story. Tell them what you’ve told us.

  8. I used to think journalists had integrity. Then I watched The Wire. And now I’ve read this drivel (I mean the article of course, not this blog). And as a Canadian, I’m now boycotting the Globe. What crap.

  9. I can’t even get past the basic wheat = gluten thing.


    Still, it makes some of our doctors look almost knowledgeable.

    Maybe Jennifer Esposito could be persuaded to send them an article??

    The newspaper should be ashamed.

  10. As a former journalist, this really steams me. It should have never gotten past round one of editing. I understand the appeal of trying to do something dramatically different for a set amount of time (day in the life, week in the life, etc.) because they make for great features. The problem comes in when you don’t know what the heck you are talking about. Any first-year J-school student knows you have to do the legwork of research, even on more “creative” pieces. Just sad.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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