Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Officially, it doesn't really exist

The North End that is. Today the City released their new "Neighbourhoods of Winnipeg" section of their website (ok, for all I know it's always been there, but I saw people talking about it on Twitter today so I think it's new). Did you know that Winnipeg has 236 neighbourhoods? I sure didn't.

Interesting, because as we all know, whenever anything bad happens it is generally blamed on one of 3 areas: the North End, the West End and Downtown. According to the interactive map, none of these "neighbourhoods" actually exist. Their map is drawn on top of a Google map and even though Google (and the rest of us) calls it Downtown, it's actually South Portage.

Now, of course, I don't necessarily expect anyone (read: media) to always be super specific when detailing where an event happened, but maybe that's the way it should be, for accuracy. That way we avoid the many slip ups that erroneously blame one neighbourhood for another one's troubles. Because it's pretty much always related to troubles. Take for example the sinkhole that happened in Garden City, which for the record actually does exist as a neighbourhood called Garden City.

Now, the CBC reported the story saying it was in the North End. I believe they originally had it in the body of the story as well as the caption of the photo, but I'm not 100% sure because when I saw it, it was just the caption. But the comments section makes me think it was probably the body at first as well. One comment, by GoodN1GHT stood out to me in particular (after another commenter pointed out that this intersection was not in fact in the North End):
"If there is a shooting in Tuxedo, Tuxedo temporarily becomes part of the North End. It helps to keep outsiders thinking that Winnipeg's problems are in one small area."
I agree with this statement, but would also add that it keeps locals thinking the same thing.

I've been harping about this for literally years. Now, CBC did change their story/caption, but the internet, like an elephant, never forgets. This screenshot shows all the various other agencies, websites and so on that picked up their story - their stories never got changed. Also notice that I didn't bother to capitalize "North End" in my search - neither did the CBC in their original caption... I realized technically someone could refer to any part of the city by its direction, yes, Garden City is in the the north end of Winnipeg. However, in a city that has two neighbourhoods that already unofficially go by North End and West End, the way to state this without confusion would be to say "on the north side of the city" or something like that. I'm also about 99% certain that this story (like every other) didn't mean to inform people that it happened somewhere in the the northern part of the city. Obviously, when talking about a sinkhole it's not horrible to "accuse" the wrong neighbourhood, but the same can't be said for crime.

Winnipeg, especially in the core areas, has a huge PR problem already. Our media needs to realize that they are the ones who can help change that. People who choose to remain uniformed about what is really going on around them will keep reading headlines and making snap decisions based on that information. It's very easy to hate the North End or West Broadway (okay, well it was easy to hate it back in like, the 90s) when that's all you hear before or after the words stabbing and murder.

Challenge people and their perceptions. Maybe we do need to utilize the boundaries of the 236 neighbourhoods. In which case, I really don't like Eric Coy and all of its ditches. Or Elmhurst for that matter. If this isn't the way we go (because it would be very tedious to figure out every time, that's why we already have the broader neighbourhood terms), then we need to have the media adapt a standard format such as the ### block of Any St. (kudos does go to the Winnipeg Sun for often doing exactly this). This will slowly help retrain the brains of those that make their decisions based on media headlines.

As for defining those broader neighbourhood labels, I think asking organizations that have those labels in the name what their boundaries are - like the West End Biz, or the North End Community Renewal Corporation and so on would be a good start. If there are differences then maybe everyone just needs to sit down and hammer it out, once and for all.

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