EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

THE POLICE INSIDER – A Story About Murder, Race, Stereotyping & Responsible Journalism

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VICE NEWS SCREENSHOT

Ever heard of Vice News?

If you’re in your 50’s like me probably not.

Vice News is the way of the future for a new generation of world and socially conscious young people who are plugged into social media and the world of digital communication.

According to the Vice News “About” section, they’re “An international news organization created by and for a connected generation. Bringing you an unvarnished look at some of the most important events of our time, and shining a light on underreported stories around the globe. We get to the heart of the matter with reporters who call it like they see it.”

At last count Vice News had over eighty-eight thousand (88,000) followers on Twitter and over two-hundred & seventy-five thousand (275,000) likes on their Facebook page.  Vice reports over 1 million visitors surf their site per day.

Earlier this year (2014) I was contacted by a young Vice News reporter with remarkable credentials.  Nilo Tabrizy is a twenty something journalist who was born in Tehran, Iran and lived in Dubai before she moved to Vancouver, BC.  In May 2011, she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA in Political Science and French.  She is fluent in English, French, Farsi and Azari-Turkish.  She also graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, with a Master’s of Science focusing on broadcast journalism, photojournalism and multimedia storytelling.  She’s worked for Al Jazeera (English) in New York City and CTV British Columbia in Vancouver.

So what did a seemingly brilliant journalist from New York City want with a retired cop in Winnipeg, Manitoba?

In keeping with the Vice News mandate, Nilo wanted to “shine the light” on what she considered an “underreported story.”  She was interested doing some investigative journalism regarding the Aboriginal Street Gang problem in Winnipeg.  During her research phase she stumbled across The Police Insider web site and thought I might be able to contribute to her story.

NILO TABRIZY (Twitter)
NILO TABRIZY (Twitter)

On February 19, 2014, I met Nilo and her film crew and played tour guide as we slipped into gang infested areas in the West End, Broadway and North End.  As we visited gang controlled turf I pointed out gang tags and told the stories of disposable young Aboriginal men, brutal murders, shootings and the false promise of gang life.

Last I heard the documentary is still in the production stage.

I still find it interesting that a News organization based out of New York City has the desire to tell a story about Aboriginal street gangs in Winnipeg.  If nothing else, it certainly speaks to their “global interest.”

It’s that global interest that inspired a recent Vice News report published on May 29, 2014.

The story, written by reporter Grace Wyler, was titled “Why are so many Aboriginal Women Being Murdered in Canada?

I don’t have to explain my interest in the subject matter to Police Insider readers.  I’ve done a great deal of writing on the controversial issue.  My recent story, “RCMP Report Delivers Death Blow to Racist Ideology,” quickly became the number four (4) all time viewed story on the TPI web site.  The story confronted the tired urban myth that Police investigative indifference contributed to the Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women epidemic.

It wasn’t so much the title of the Vice News story that caught my eye, it was the tag line under the title;

“And nobody knows why?”

The tag line troubled me.

Only days earlier the RCMP released one of the most in-depth reports ever assembled regarding the plight of Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada.  The report provided great insight into causation, risk factors and victim and offender statistics.

I was disappointed the Vice News story chose to intentionally ignore this important piece of the puzzle.

“And nobody knows why?”

Why would Vice News stick their collective heads in the sand on this critical issue?

Did the RCMP report undermine the decidedly anti Police, anti Government theme flowing throughout the story, or did it dilute the article’s argument for calling a National Inquiry?

“And nobody knows why?”

Is that really a fair or responsible question?

Is that really getting to the heart of the matter?

Is that really calling it like they see it?

I’m sorry, with risk factors, causation and suspect identifiers well-known, we can no longer sit back and pretend the Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women crisis is an abstract mystery.  It’s one thing to shine the light on underreported stories but it’s another to publish misleading headlines and imbalanced reports that have the ability to influence the opinions of your readership.

I was the first to drop a comment on the story;

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It had to be said.

Much to my surprise it appeared someone was listening.

Even though the grossly unbalanced story stood, the offensive tag line vaporized into cyberspace.

Just when I thought it was over a Vice News reader from Portland, Oregon went on the attack and dropped a comment in rebuttal;

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It’s like I said, misleading headlines and imbalanced reports have the ability to influence the opinions of your readership.  Could it be the decidedly anti Police / Government angle in the story infected this readers mind.

It was time for some much-needed enlightenment;

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Nothing like a reality check.

Much to the credit of the commenter, a quick apology was posted.

There’s a lesson to be learned in all of this.

If you take on the responsibility to tell a story, you have an obligation to do the proper research so the story you tell has credibility and balance.  If you don’t do the research, you run the risk of “shining your light” in the wrong direction.  If the goal of the story was to support calls for a National Enquiry then support those calls with legitimate data and not inflammatory, inaccurate tag lines.

Participating in the blame game is never going to advance the issue.

Vice News is a cutting edge, sleek & sexy news source.

Let’s hope they don’t forget that credibility in the news game is everything.

RELATED LINKS:

Vice News – Grace Wyler “Why are so many Aboriginal Women being murdered in Canada?”

Nilo Tabrizy – Twitter

Vice News

One Comment

  1. “The story confronted the tired urban myth that police investigative indifference contributed to the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.”

    No it didn’t. It confronted racism, not indifference. Police across this country are most definitely indifferent to persons in poverty.

    “The RCMP released one of the most in-depth reports”

    In-depth to the degree to give the UN and the public the false belief “Nothing to see here folks.”. We all know had the report been done by city, it would’ve produced very different results, which would’ve clearly indicated indifference. by some police forces,

    “Did the report undermine…National Inquiry?”

    Yes it did. Wasn’t that REALLY the point?

    “And nobody knows why?”

    Well some of us know why. We each hold a piece of the puzzle, which, when together, would show the answer.

    “you run the risk of ‘shining your light’ in the wrong direction”

    Since when did that ever matter to mainstream media?

    Yesterday the media reported the RCMP will continue to do DNA analysis (for now). If evidence collection by police are limited by their budgets, then who do you think will suffer as a result of police having to pick and choose (and THEY DO PICK AND CHOOSE because it happened to my community many, MANY times)? People in poverty, homeless persons, prostitutes, drug users…that’s who. This is not new news. It’s always been this way in Canada, we just do a better job of hiding it.

    You want to know what I see coming down the pike James? Privatization of police services. Canadians simply can’t afford the police anymore. Your salaries eat up 88% of police budgets leaving only 12% for solving cases (those are the numbers for Toronto Police Services, don’t imagine it’s much different elsewhere in the country), unless of course the provinces and the feds decide to add to it (but they rarely do, because, lets face it, THEIR safety isn’t compromised, now is it?).

    Indifference was born out of the forced choice to choose between which cases are the easiest, and cheapest to solve (it’s the reason I’ve been instructing people to collect their own evidence).

    The police and vulnerable persons are nothing more than pawns in an over-played game of chess. That’s how I see it.

    I trust the media less than Toronto police and Toronto politicians (that’s why I fly solo). Here in Toronto we have been assaulted with images of our Mayor and the elevator doors of City Hall, and diva Councillors looking for attention with their hate filled messages…sickening. What did the media leave out? Many Councillors here in Toronto have access to gang members just like Ford does, but the media isn’t saying a word about that. What makes Ford so different? He’s a Conservative for one thing. He helps vulnerable persons (that’s not what the media says, but he does), and he’s shifting Toronto’s political position from left to slightly right of centre. Our media here is biased, pro-left. If the media were to actually weigh all the facts, Ford wouldn’t look so bad, because there’s a pattern of corruption in this city (and province) thats been going on for about 14-15 years now.

    I’m not a fan of social media. Lots of nasty people out there. Life’s too short.

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