The purpose of an observer

News media often get a bad rap for focusing on negative incidents — an unfair criticism when you look at the purpose of the news.

A newspaper is a reflection of a community. For The Observer, that community is the East Toronto area between Markham Road and the Metro Toronto Zoo. We can’t be everywhere and we can’t report everything, so stories are chosen based on their potential impact on the community.

An outsider looking into a community perceives its achievements and statistics, the kind of things our reporters cover, such as community and sporting events and, more often than not, crime.

Let’s be honest here. Our community isn’t known for being safe and peaceful. It’s known for robberies, muggings and murders. These are the kind of things you inevitably read about in the paper, the stories with the most impact.

This reflection of the community, which is on your screen right now, is both opening your eyes to what’s happening around you, while perpetuating what you already know.

At what point does what we’re writing and what you’re reading stop informing you and start enforcing stereotypes?

It’s hard not to think that you’re enforcing the negative image of east Toronto, when you cover crimes — the subject our community is most known for. The hard truth is that these things are happening. Turning a blind eye might appease our conscience, but it won’t make us any safer.

We at The Observer aim for a balanced reflection of our community. Our coverage shows both what we should be proud of, from a fun way to stay fit, to hospital expansions that will make our visits a little quicker. It also highlights areas we need to focus on, like the effect of the economy on our community, and a missing person a family is still desperately trying to find.

Our negative stories are more than just stories. They’re vital links in a chain of consequences that help to stop crimes going on around us. When a house is broken into, our coverage creates awareness and may deter similar crimes. When passports are stolen and presumably put on the black market, our coverage sheds light onto the dark world of black-market trade. It shows that our community is aware and we’re willing to share our experiences with each other to put a stop to it.

It is our job to not just inform but to inspire change, be that in your perceptions of a culture or in pressuring the city to stop ignoring your snowed-in streets.
We hope after informing and inspiring we can change those statistics and focus on our achievements. And those outsiders looking in on us won’t have that negative perception and we can become known for our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

About this article

By: Maxx Smith
Posted: Jan 29 2009 10:49 am
Filed under: Opinion