Pubdate: Wed, 16 May 2007
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Victoria News
Author: Heidi Exner


Re: Front page headline and story, "Needled Neighbours: North Park 
residents say junkies are ruining their neighbourhood".

The media are among the most powerful forces in our world. There have 
been countless times it has been of major influence in helping to 
create significant and positive social change via factual and 
positive coverage of humanity's passion, struggle, and triumph.

Unfortunately, in my personal opinion, this is not one of those 
times. The headline on last week's issue is, at best, discouraging.

I find this headline to be a low blow toward people in our community 
who are already dealing with a number of compounding health issues, 
homelessness, and ongoing public vilification - often made worse by 
uninformed, sensationalistic media coverage. Not only this, but 
publishing a label like "junkie" without quotes implies legitimacy.

For decades, human rights campaigns have rallied against racist, 
sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and ableistic language as both a 
symptom and perpetuator of hate. In fact, the media has played an 
enormous role in helping wage such wars - often for the better. 
Without the power of the media to inspire action and positive change 
in our communities, such massive modern-day atrocities as Apartheid, 
the Canadian Residential School System, Pinochet's regime, the Berlin 
Wall, US Segregation, colonial occupation of India, and countless 
others they may never have ended.

So, what happened with this story? What makes a person using drugs by 
injection exempt from the right to be free from a label, or at the 
very least not see it given permission via a newspaper headline? Does 
publishing a label such as that and a story such as this attract more 
people to read your publication? And if so, is this "if it bleeds, it 
leads" philosophy worth overriding the basic human rights of even one 
person - rights which benefit us all, and for which we all continue to fight?

People who use drugs by injection are part of my community. They are 
also part of my family. Most importantly, they are human beings 
deserving of dignity, not labeling and further social isolation. 
Their challenges are our challenges. Their world is our world. And 
all of us - even the media - can choose our role in how this struggle 
plays out.

If a human being lies dying, what role will the media choose to play? 
Vulture, Bystander, or Medic?

Please choose wisely. For some, it may be a matter of life and death.

Heidi Exner

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