Monday, July 06, 2009

The Media and the Homeless

KREX-TV has been doing a good job of covering issues surrounding the homeless in the Grand Junction area. A search of their site with the word "homeless" revealed special features in March on growing up homeless, and a great story on the City's "camp cleanup" in May.
Both of these stories were reported by Kate Renner, who according to her station biography holds degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Theology. That's a unique combination.

KREX also offered better coverage than other local broadcast media of the City Council meeting a week ago today, where a ham-handed attempt to criminalize solicitation was sent back by
Council for some much-needed work. However, something included as part of their web package for that story gave me pause:

This is a screen capture of a still photo included with the online story. In case you can't read the file name at the top, it is "Bums Off Hook".

I sent an email to KREX News Director Keira Bresnahan, expressing my concern about the manner in which the picture was named, visible to the public, and the impression it left upon me as to her staff's sense of objectivity and taste.

Keira sent me a quick reply last week, stating that she would take it up with the appropriate people right away. To her credit and that of her staff, the file name was quickly changed.

This episode is hopefully not reflective of the underlying attitude of a majority of our local media. KREX has otherwise distinguished themselves locally for their coverage of this issue so far this year. They, and the rest of the media, can maintain and improve on that standard by showing up in force at Whitman Park tomorrow morning. It will likely present an opportunity to see and talk to all of the stakeholders in a way not typical to our area.

These human beings and citizens are a part of our community that may seem unsavory to a large segment of others within that community. Many of those would likely prefer they be hidden away or removed elsewhere.
I've got news for those of who you yell at or otherwise deride them:

They're not going away.

I believe that the ordinances presented last week were an attempt to use health and safety as subterfuge to accomplish that end. To their credit, the homeless community and those who advocate for them showed up, and the power of democratic government and the First Amendment was there for all to see.

The local media can help to assure that all of our city's problems, as well as accomplishments, are put forward and addressed in a similar fashion. They can start by following KREX's lead in reporting on issues such as homelessness, and avoiding the subtle biases and editorial legerdemain that can make the outlet appear aloof, oblivious, or put a suspicious stain on otherwise good work.

Have a great day.

1 comment:

Rad Winters, Alanologist said...

Hi John. I am a person who works in a business downtown and has been accosted, while on the job in a business setting, by panhandlers who seem mentally ill. I think it would be nice if there were some basic training available for those of us who encounter needy folks on the job and would like to relate with them in a manner that enables us to continue doing business throughout the day (keeping a safe and clean atmosphere for our customers in an eating establishment), whilst also treating panhandlers and the mentally ill indigent with human compassion. This can be a tricky situation especially if you are a lone woman working in a place of business. There are many intricacies and issues here... but our society does not equip us with tools for such situations.