Story ‘perpetuates stereotypes’

Re: Locals fear Beer Store magnet for trouble, Nov. 12, page 10

I was extremely offended and shocked at the biased reporting and perpetuation of stereotypes present in the Nov. 12 story “Locals fear Beer Store magnet for trouble.” 

As someone who is currently working on a master’s thesis in social justice and equity studies that focuses on how ongoing gentrification of previously mixed-use neighbourhoods in Ottawa is having a severe impact on the lives and livelihoods of marginalized groups such as drug users and homeless populations, I’m sad to say that this is the kind of fear-mongering reporting that functions to further oppress those already living on the margins of society. 

I’ll cite just a few problematic examples:

In the second paragraph, the writer begins by editorializing and using oppressive, uncited and subjective language: 

“But some residents who live in the area are concerned that the Beer Store will attract the old crowd – including aggressive panhandlers and other sketchy characters – who used to hang around Dundonald Park.”

Did one of the reporter’s sources say this, and it was paraphrased without properly citing, or is this the reporter’s own perception of the marginalized populations who frequent Dundonald Park and the rest of Centretown? I’m not sure which scenario is more unethical or unnerving. 

Another gaping error? The author spends 500 odd words writing about the perspectives of people saying horribly oppressive things about marginalized populations, and there are no voices present of those who are being condemned. 

Contrasting quotes were not included from those who were interviewed at Centretown Community Health Centre – their mention comes almost right at the bottom, and the only information accredited to them has to do with alternative resources for social services. There is no voice given in this article to those who do not hold oppressive views against marginalized populations.

I know that Centretown News is peer-edited by fellow journalism students, who are currently learning and making mistakes – and they’re not seasoned journalists, so flubs are bound to happen – but at the end of the day, someone needs to take accountability for the words that are being put out there for public consumption. No matter how small the story, how niche the audience, or how green the journalist, it always needs to be considered how you are representing the people and stories you are writing about. 

This story is now out there for public consumption, in an economic and social climate where social service programs are being cut left and right, affordable housing is quickly disappearing, public space is being encroached upon by gentrification, and marginalized populations are being faced with increasing hardships. 

These “aggressive panhandlers and other sketchy characters” are human beings, too – ones who called Centretown home long before the condo dwellers and soccer moms moved in. 

MJ Deschamps,