Monday, 17 September 2012


Today in Journalism class, students engaged in a discussion about content that is, and is not, appropriate to show in the media.

The discussion happened after anti-semitic posters were posted in downtown Winnipeg, and used to target Mayor Sam Katz among other well-known Jews in the city (and some non-Jews, apparently).

I was surprised to learn some of my classmates agreed with the Winnipeg Sun and thought it was appropriate for a clear photograph of one of the posters to be published. That left me burning fuckin’ mad. My heart was racing throughout the discussion, and it took me a while to stop thinking about it when class ended.

One comment - that a reporter’s job is to report - kept repeating itself in my mind.

And I agree with that comment, but I also think reporters, in general, are responsible to report only information that will allow people to be “free and self-governing,” said a handout given to me in first year Journalism class. I suppose I can see how publishing a photograph of one of the posters would allow people to be free to make up their own minds about the content of the poster, but it would also leave others trapped - specifically, the people whose names appeared on the “list” on the poster.

It would leave them trapped by stereotypes and by no other choice but to be portrayed in a negative and racist fashion, even if only for two days (the number of days the Sun has run the photograph so far). And while not directly, it leaves others trapped by that racism too, because publishing the photograph perpetuates the message  - even if that was not the intention of the media outlet.

I am now conflicted about Journalism and truth and boundaries. But I also gained a little bit of clarity, I guess.

For example, I am now thinking differently about the Youth Justice Act in Manitoba.

While interning at the paper (no, not the Sun) over the summer, I used to question why the names of youth who committed criminal acts were not published. Of course I thought I knew the answer, but I did not understand it as I understand it after the discussion today.

After today, I think their names are not published because it would only trap them if people at large knew their identity. They would become trapped by many of the same things the people on that list were temporarily trapped by  - stereotypes, and in some cases, publishing their names could perpetuate ideas rooted in racism that, unfortunately, seems to exist in society already.

The difference is, of course, that the people whose names appeared on the list on the posters have not, to my knowledge, committed criminal acts.

Anyway, this is all to say that I now have a little bit more insight when it comes to forming an opinion on what is appropriate to publish. I still agree with the hand out on journalism I was given last year - that information published should allow people to be free and self-governing. However, it should be non-discriminatory, so to speak: information should, to the best of the media outlets ability, let everyone be free and self-governing.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, and no I am not saying that convicted serial killers and child molesters should remain anonymous, but I am saying that all parties should  be considered when content is published, and in the particular case of the anti-semitic posters, one party was targeted, and the media only continued to target them by posting the content.

The end.

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