The Media

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , ,

A young man I worked with just got out of prison. The parole board placed some restrictions on him and he was to live in a halfway house for a period of time.

This young man was always quiet and never spoke his piece. In writing class, he wrote an amazing piece on courage which won him a prison writing contest.

I followed his story in the newspapers, and I asked him once why the media never portrayed his side of the story. He just shrugged. From previous conversations I knew that he was very sorry for what he had done to another man in a post-teen brawl. The two sides had been fighting, and both were to blame. But this young man stepped over the line and severely injured another.

Despite his action, he tried to change, and worked toward solving problems in other ways besides violence. But he was so extremely quiet. “Tell the Board, tell the media how sorry you are,” I would say. But he said nothing.

When he got out, the local paper played to the lowest group of their readers and recalled the fight and what he had done. The conclusion the media wanted us to do was either hide in our basements or scream to keep people in prison for life.

I wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the tone of the article. The reporter got back to me by email and that was good. He/she said they had contacted the parole board and the prison authorities for their information. I wrote back and asked if they had contacted the young man himself, even though I already knew they hadn’t.

Some things were missing from the news story:

  • the whole thing we used to talk about, paying your debt to society
  • the young man’s side of the story
  • a news story to help the young man in this very difficult time of adjustment – getting out of prison, something like ‘Young Man Tries to Build a New Life.’

In regard to prisons and crime, today’s media is part of the problem, not part of the answer, or so I think.

What is your opinion?

  1. Aina Baron says:

    I couldn’t agree more. They write exactly what the inmate does not need. It is very cheap shots on someone they have never interviewed.

  2. Joanne says:

    Although the media is billed as having the important function in our society of being unbiased and informative, it is unfortunately subject to the bottom line. Media organizations need to sell airtime, subscriptions, ad spaces, etc. Even the CBC needs to ensure that they maintain the expected level of viewership/listenership to maintain their funding. Although I do not wish to overgeneralize, there are definitely pressures on journalists to provide the public with angles on stories that will actually sell.

    While I do understand the reasoning behind it, I still believe that it is harmful to the positive reintegration of people getting out of prison. I believe that those of us who care, need to make efforts to alert the media that there are other sides to every story and that we would like to hear more of them. Thank-you Ed for taking the initiative to show us how to do it.

  3. James Inglis says:

    Very interesting comments Ed, it would be interesting to have the news run a follow up after interviewing the young man. It would be interesting to see what changes he has made in his life since the conviction and how the events of the fight have altered his life. In the same article it would interesting to see an interview from the victim to see how his life has changed since the fight and in what way his injuries have altered his life. That would indeed be a balanced story.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Excellent point, James, and in this case I would argue that society has failed both of them. I would like to see an interview with the victim, because then I would know how little society has done for him– have they paid him for lost work? Have they covered all medical costs? Have they provided ongoing counseling? We don’t treat our victims well nor our offenders.

  4. Absolutely, Ed. In today’s world, where the dollar rules and people are regarded as nothing more than mindless (and soulless) consumers, the media angle their stories to the way that wlll sell the most papers. Behind this all too familiar scenario is the ongoing greed of shareholders, who want more and more profit for their investment. I wish I could offer a solution, but I can’t.

  5. Heather says:

    Gone are the days of good reporting and seldom are we treated to unbiased articles. Everyone seems to have an agenda……and it’s all traceable to power and money. Have you ever noticed how many advertisements the government (and hopefuls) places in newspapers, on radio and television? Some are hidden in the form of public awareness via the Health Authority or BC Hydro – but the money still comes from the same source (from our pockets, actually!) How can we expect a true accounting regarding inmates and their conditions when our government is pro-prison and has an American styled mega prison agenda?

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