The media makes a living off of feeding our natural desire for information, and with the every-increasing speed and competitiveness between media outlets, the pressure is on for journalists to absolutely do whatever it takes to get “the story.”
But what exactly is “the story?”
While the media feeding frenzy surrounding the recent charges brought against a member of the community may be a natural phenomenon of the current media, it was not a pretty sight at times, and it definitely upset members of the community.
It also upset members of a victim’s family, when her lifestyle choices were brought into the story, something I would argue is completely irrelevant.
We all make mistakes, and in no way does this make someone deserving of a violent murder.
But the media may not have made mistakes solely on their treatment of the victims.
The portrayal of the accused has been criticized as well for treating a person charged with a crime as guilty before he has had his opportunity for a fair trial. This is never a healthy attitude for a society to take towards people accused of committing a crime, when the evidence has yet to be seen.
While I do have a lot of respect for the RCMP’s ability to investigate cases and faith in forensic evidence, it is also unfair to not at least reserve judgment until the information is presented in its entirety.
One member of the community also commented to me it made her angry to hear the television crew had visited the residence of the accused killer’s parents.
While I can understand people are naturally protective of their friends and fellow community-members, I hope they can also understand where the media is coming from to some degree when it comes to attempting to speak to family members.
With these kinds of horrible stories, where people are quite clearly going to be very upset, it is still important a journalist at least give both sides an opportunity to speak.
While I absolutely recognize family members of either victims or the accused may not be in a place where they can speak publicly about what they are dealing with, a journalist would not be doing his or her job if he or she did not at least offer both sides an opportunity to have their say.
This is especially the case when one side is being very vocal in the media, which then can lead to one-sided representation in the public eye. This is what a journalist is trained to avoid if possible.
However, there definitely is a line, and the issue is especially difficult within small communities, where everyone knows something or someone related to the topic at hand.
It is very hard for outsiders to deal delicately with something so close to the bone within a small community, and it is fairly obvious from some of the coverage in the national media, they are not very interested in dealing with the matter gently, they just want the story today — before the next big story tomorrow.
This is very unfortunate, because the media should be there to serve the public, yet this must still be balanced by some sort of profitability.
Perhaps it is similar to when someone asks for a candy bar instead of an apple. Sometimes we want what isn’t necessarily best for us. So perhaps the media could focus more on providing the pertinent facts and leaving out the sugary extras and consumers of media need to watch what they take in a little more closely and a little more critically.