Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The letter to the editor that the Free Press did print

Jac wrote an insightful letter to the Free Press that actually got published. Unfortunately, they gave it a completely unrepresentative title which means that the editors interpreted it to mean almost the complete opposite of what was intended. I can find no fault with the flawlessly precise writing and therefore must conclude that the editors are nincompoops. Link to the edited version here.

Below is the original text:
Friday's Free Press would be excellent fodder for any course in media literacy, as it contains examples of both refreshingly enlightened and disappointingly irresponsible journalism as writers respond to the recent spate of violence in the West End.

In his article, “Con out early; girl, 6, violated,” Mike McIntyre appears bent on making the point that Judge Ray Wyant's decision to sentence a non-violent property offender to only six months in jail directly led to the sexual assault of a six-year-old girl. McIntyre reminds the reader that Greg Glen Hope “would likely have been in jail at the time of the attack had the Crown got their way,” and laments that Hope's early release “allegedly pav[ed] the way for Sunday night's attack on the child.” Considering that the charges in question were one break and enter and a string of probation breaches, what would McIntyre have had Judge Wyant do? Assume that all property offenders or individuals who breach their probation are potential child predators and err on the side of caution by handing them the maximum sentence possible? This type of editorializing plays well with a scared and angry public, but it adds nothing to a productive discussion about how to make our neighbourhoods safer.

Dan Lett, on the other hand, takes a level-headed approach in his editorial “Deal with crime wave's root causes,” pointing out that more police and more helicopters are mock solutions designed to create an illusion of safety and exploit public ignorance about the causes of crime. The solutions we really need are not so simple – or popular – and it takes a brave journalist to call for them at a time when fear and anger are running high.

Tragedies such as those in West End bring the problem of crime and violence in impoverished neighbourhoods into the public eye and mobilize citizens to action. Such action can take one of two forms: we can look closely at the causes of crime in the inner-city and come together to lobby for the complex, compassionate and sensible solutions that such crime necessitates; or we can roll out the same tired old harsher-sentences, let's-get-tough rhetoric that not only doesn't work in fighting crime, but also creates more pain and more tragedy.

The media is critical in helping to determine which of these paths a community will take. Thoughtful responses such as Lett's help to facilitate the first approach. Articles such as McIntyre's only add fuel to the already tremendously destructive fire of the latter.

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