Big media's bias and intent should be apparent
// Brittney Kroiss

“In Occupy Vancouver, a young homeless woman is dead of a suspected heroin overdose, and the camp has become an unsanitary eyesore strewn with refuse and drug paraphernalia,” read an article in The Daily Beast. Sound familiar? The majority of newspapers have continuously referred to Occupy Vancouver as dirty, ugly, and likely to be violent. Because of biased reporting, many of the issues brought forth by the movement have been consciously side-stepped.

The tragic death of 23-year-old Ashlie Gough at the Vancouver protest has been highly politicized. Many politicians and commentators have been eager to speak up, encouraging the immediate dismantling of the camp in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Ashlie’s father, Tom Gough, speaking to the Globe and Mail said, “This has nothing to do with the tent city or Occupy Vancouver. She just happened to be there. It’s just another bad thing that happened in downtown Vancouver.”

Drug-overdoses, unfortunately, are nothing new to our city. According to the Canadian Press, in 2010, there were 125 fatal drug-related overdoses in the Downtown Eastside alone. East Hastings has overflowed into Vancouver’s clean, touristy downtown core, bringing attention to and blurring the boundaries between these two distinct worlds. The local events of Occupy are not a result of the movement itself, but of the underlying issues in our city and society that still need to be properly addressed.

Putting a stop to the movement on the street and cleaning up the art gallery won't make problems such as homelessness and drug abuse go away. According to Gough, as quoted by the Vancouver Observer, “She [Ashlie Gough] went to Vancouver basically as a tourist with her boyfriend. She was there for one day, and spent one night there visiting friends who happened to be down at Occupy Vancouver.”

The media’s glorification of Ashlie’s suburban life and positive traits without speaking about what really brought her to the Occupy camp – being homeless, and taking a “street” drug like heroin – directs the reader to the assumption that without Occupy, she may still be alive today to fulfil all of her potential. Ignoring the issues brought forth by the Occupy movement and the events that have unfolded here in Vancouver leaves our society in denial.

Getting both sides of the story can be a challenge, and at best we can just aim for as many biased perspectives as possible in the hopes of creating as balanced and neutral a story as possible. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if this is really what our popular media is striving for, or if they are intentionally framing their articles to fit the view of corporations and their major sponsors.

Perhaps the intention is to actually sway the public, who are without a concrete opinion on an issue or lack the background knowledge to fully understand the situation. What we need are real discussions, and a news media that isn't afraid to provoke and challenge us in our views. Without challenge, there is no growth. If we can facilitate the conversation, if nothing else, then maybe we can actually begin approaching the underlying issues that plague our city.

//Brittney Kroiss, Writer
//Illustration by Stefan Tosheff

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