Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear Staff Writer

I get it, your job kind of sucks, what with constant budget cuts and more and more work being heaped on you by the day; but could we come to some sort of agreement about furthering the negative stereotype that surrounds the North End?

In the rush to be perceived as top media dog in this city I do understand the race to post a headline before anyone else, and good for you - yours was the first story on this stabbing to come up in my newsfeed. However, was it really necessary in your 41 word, 3 sentence "article" (this includes the word count from the headline), to scream North End in both the headline and the body of the "story"? I agree, the stabbing did technically happen in the North End, that's true, but while we waited for more details did you have to further perpetuate the myth that the North End is a scary place?

Those of us that live in the North End, when we hear of a story like that make the almost always logical conclusion that the victim and attacker probably knew each other, some sort of argument gone wrong. However, when someone from outside the neighbourhood hears that there was a stabbing here, it's a case of "remember to lock the doors when we drive down Main St."

Now, the Winnipeg Sun (Staff Writer, please note that the Sun, which usually gets labeled as a tabloid, did a better job on this one) seemingly had about the same amount of information when they wrote their article, yet this is what it looked like:
A man is recovering in hospital after being stabbed early Saturday.
He has been upgraded to stable but critical condition, police spokesperson Const. Jason Michalyshen said.
Police were called to the house, in the 300-block of Alfred Avenue, at 5:50 a.m.
Michalyshen said the investigation is in its early stages.
"I'm not aware of the circumstances or the motivation," Michalyshen said.
No suspects have been identified.
It's not clear whether the victim lived in the home.
Michalyshen said the man's condition is improving.
Notice that they managed to avoid saying "North End" anywhere in their story.

Did you notice how many comments your original story got? 54 - more than one comment for every word that you wrote. Although, I suppose 14 of those comments did have to deleted because of the classy commenters that flock to a negative story like this to spew their racism and incorrect views of the neighbourhood as a whole, especially when they are left to their own imaginations to fill in the details that are missing. When a story is incomplete like this, there should be no comments allowed until there is actually something to comment on. Or better yet, no comments at all - after all, eventually the people involved will be "in a case before the courts" - if the comments will be closed during stories about the trial, why allow them right after it happens?

Now, dear Staff Writer, I noticed you wrote a follow up article and managed to leave "North End" out of the headline, however, you just couldn't resist sneaking it in a little later, but fine, it did happen in the North End and you're finally giving a few more details, so it's a start. However, you did manage to leave out one little nugget that the Sun seemed to have time to add in, that the victim and suspect knew each other. I would argue that that is one of the most important details when reporting any crime: context.

Do Winnipeggers need to worry about being stabbed in the North End if they don't know people who are likely to stab them? Probably not. Do people need to worry about being murdered and stuffed in the trunk of a car when they visit St. Vital? No, of course not. Given a little bit of context and information we can make informed choices about things.

Although, I will happily wait for the headline of "100% of murders in Winnipeg in 2013 have been committed in Ft. Rouge/St. Vital" - imagine if that ran? While technically it is currently a true statement, it certainly doesn't speak to the values of the rest of the neighbourhood; neither does crime in the North End. So please dear Staff Writer, please think before you use your brush to paint a picture of everyone in my community, individuals create crime, not entire neighbourhoods.

Winnipeg Girl

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