As the editor of the Now Newspaper for the past 7 years, I constantly have to make decisions about what to publish in relation to the public good. I and the journalists I work with are constantly striving to offer balanced reporting by not only representing the various sides to a story, but also by showing context between the “facts” and the sentiments of the community.
I was struck a few weeks back when in response to the release of the information about the Surrey RCMP only having 36 uniformed officers on the streets, Councillor Linda Hepner stated that the information would likely be used to “fear monger in the community.”
In fact, Surrey First as a whole continues to argue that crime is under control, and that figures in many categories are often decreasing. While I question the first claim, it is true that the numbers across the different crime classifications are a mixed bag in terms of trends.
On the other side of the spectrum is the kind of response that we as journalists receive in the community. Many profiles of citizens, in every neighbourhood across Surrey, are speaking up about the fear they face in their own neighbourhoods.
This brings forth a very interesting question: are the media better served by reporting the increases in violent crime or the decreases in break and enters every quarter, or by reporting the more anecdotal stories offered by the people that live in the community.
I think that we have an obligation on both fronts. That being said, any politician holding up numbers to show why residents’ feelings about safety are wrong demonstrates an arrogance that doesn’t reflect the people they’re tasked with representing.
The media attempt to act as the conduit of factual information in order to better inform people about the world in which they live. But at the end of the day, the human condition is never just about simple statistics.
So would I describe bringing light to the fact that there are only 36 uniformed officers on shift as a way to “fear monger” in the community?
Not a chance.