While speaking at a business event in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, former local and network TV anchor Richard Brown (pictured right with KGO co-anchor Terilyn Joe) had some advice for journalists on reporting crime in the community.
The Battleford’s News-Optimist reports the city was named “Canada’s crime capital” in a CTV News report the night before Brown spoke. A local resident asked the former KGO, WCBS and KXLY anchor how his town could get more balanced coverage from the media.
Brown said the root of what appears to be unfair reporting has two causes, the way the story is told and what he said was the media’s “Watergate mindset,” looking for the bad story underneath the good.
Brown encouraged the community to look for the good news to give to reporters, “whether it is an anti-bullying story, whether it is stories about having communities coming together, because it’s easy for reporters to find the bad news. What you have to do is hand them the good news.”
“You can make the numbers say anything you want,” he said.
“If you’ve got three guys who commit 15 B and Es, that’s not a crime wave. That’s three idiots committing 15 B and Es, but the numbers show up like 15 B and Es.”
He also pointed to a case in Saskatoon where three guys had broken into 47 cars. That wasn’t 47 vehicle issues, Brown was saying. Those were three individuals who caused all of it.
“So it’s how you measure those numbers. Part of the story is asking reporters to do their jobs. Dig into the story. Is this a small cluster of people creating this crime? Or is it something else?”
Brown, who returned to Saskatchewan in 2009 and now works in communications for Mayor Don Atchison in Saskatoon, reiterated those same thoughts in speaking with the Regional Optimist.
“I think we have to be careful on how we report on crime. You can make statistics say just about anything,” he said, adding that “if you’re going to look at a community you really need to look at the numbers, and you need to decide whether or not you have the small group of people really doing a great deal of damage in your community, where you don’t have a crime wave — you have a small group of people.”
He adds “there’s growing pains in North Battleford. And when you have young journalists reporting on a story as deep and as wide as crime, then they need to take even more responsibility when they report on the story to make sure that they’re getting it right and they’re not trying to slant the story one way or the other.
“Because that’s the problem. You can look at crime numbers and you can say ‘oh my God.’ You know, ‘everybody in North Battleford is a criminal, or a victim.’ And it’s just not true.”