It’s about more than just crime

The East Toronto Observer is written, produced, and distributed by journalism students. While studying the media we have noticed trends in the way it reports crimes.

As a locally based publication we are responsible for covering events in east Scarborough, specifically, the communities east of Markham Road and south of Finch Avenue, home to beautiful areas like the Scarborough Bluffs and the Rouge River Valley. However, the reputations of some of its other neighbourhoods are not so flattering. Malvern, Galloway, Tuxedo Court, Mornelle Court, and Markham and Eglinton all fall within our coverage area.

As students of journalism we have a unique perspective into how the media selects stories and gives them priority in the news. From covering stories of all types in these areas we also see that there is more going on than just gang violence.

Major news entities are not misconstruing the facts though. Crimes do occur and major news outlets, just like us, have a duty to inform citizens about what is happening in their city. Bt why do editors seem to insist on giving precedent to certain types of crimes in certain neighbourhoods?

From day one we have been told that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Violent stories tend to attract attention and thus, maximize readership. However, the public relies on the media as a means of gaining an understanding of their surroundings. Maybe it’s because just about all of the major papers are based in Toronto, but a murder in this city often makes the front page country-wide.

Conversely, one might think Manitoba is relatively crime free as violence there tends not to get national media coverage. That province, which has a population of over 1.2 million people, recorded 62 homicides in 2007. In the same year, Toronto, with a population of about 2.5 million people recorded 84 homicides.Only 11 of those murders occured in our coverage area.

As journalists we travel across east Scarborough at all hours of the day and night. We go to areas we are unfamiliar with and talk to complete strangers, all the while carrying expensive camera equipment in full view.

We have never had any problems and have found the people of this area to be friendly, helpful, and sometimes a bit shy. We are not accusing the mass media of any wrong-doing.

If a homicide happens here by all means, report it. It is just rare to hear or read “Scarborough” in the news without some sort of crime being mentioned in the same sentence. With all the negative press being given to the area, we just thought it was right to set the record straight.