It’s a question every journalist asks themselves at some point – is the reporting doing good, or is it making a tough situation worse?
In terms of Surrey, what impact has media coverage had on that community?
That depends on who you ask.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner
Linda Hepner told a gathering at the “State of Surrey” address last week she wanted “every discussion about public safety to be based on serious thought — the facts — and moves beyond the colourful, but unhelpful rhetoric of the shock jocks.”
After making those comments I asked her if she thought the media coverage about Surrey had been unfair.
“No, I think the media has been – by and large – fair and balanced around the escalation that we saw early in the year…I think that we’ve also received good coverage, ensuring that the recent progress that has been made has gotten coverage as well.”
In her speech, Hepner also said “as good as the latest statistics and trends might be, we all know that a single shot fired by a gang member shatters our image of public safety.”
Ignoring the good news?
We also asked some of Surrey’s more prominent names for their take on the media coverage of their city.
Some weren’t afraid to tell us what they think, and to be clear, no one we spoke said the crime problem shouldn’t be covered.
But the concerns seem to be around how much emphasis is placed on bad news stories.
Philip Aguire is Executive Director of the Newton Business Improvement Association, he says one example stuck out for him.
“In 2014 there was a big media story about the amount of homicides in Surrey being double of Vancouver’s, however in 2015 it was the complete opposite, and we didn’t hear anything…Vancouver in 2015 had roughly seventeen homicides and Surrey had nine – no story, no coverage.”
“It didn’t fit the narrative of the story that the media was portraying,” says Aquire, “and therefore it wasn’t covered.”
However Aguire says it’s also up to community leaders to do a better job of showcasing what he calls the positives.
A question of democracy
Gerard Bremault is the CEO of Surrey’s Centre For Child Development – and says whether the media is helping, or hindering Surrey by reporting on the crime problem presents a delicate question.
“If we start to say to journalists, ‘this is how you should report’, I think we’re walking into an area that is inappropriate in a democracy. I think it’s important in a democracy that we have that give and take – sometimes it can be uncomfortable.”
“Whether we feel comfortable with the way the reporting is done,” says Bremault, “the reporting is important for the public to be able to ask questions, and for those questions to asked to those leaders who need to respond to them.”
Bremault says Surrey does have a “hangover from the past” as far as image goes, which is sometimes unfairly regurgitated.