Bio


View my bio

Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.


Jeffrey Dvorkin

Friday, January 21, 2011

An "Orgy of Pro-Police Coverage"


That's how some journalists are describing it.

The death of a Toronto policeman on January 12th in the line of duty has unleashed a tsunami of pro-police reporting by the Toronto media.

Sgt. Russell Ryan and Family
Sgt. Russell Ryan was run over and killed while trying to stop a man driving a stolen snowplow that allegedly hit several vehicles, at least one building and narrowly avoided striking pedestrians during a two-hour-long rampage in downtown Toronto. He was young, handsome hockey playing family man who fit the image of the fallen, heroic cop perfectly.

The last Toronto Police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Constable Laura Ellis in 2002. Her police car was hit by another vehicle as she and her partner responded to a break-and-enter call.

Richard Kachkar, 44, has been charged with first-degree murder. He faces two other charges of attempted murder in relation to the erratic manner in which the truck was driven. He will be arraigned in court this Friday. He has had some mental health issues and he also fits the image of the villain rather well.

Those are the basic facts in the case.

The response from law enforcement officials was astonishing as 11,000 uniformed officers marched silently through the streets of Toronto to honor their fallen comrade in a public funeral held at the Toronto convention center yesterday.

More astonishing was the wall-to-wall coverage of the Toronto media which acted more as police press agents than as journalists. Television in particular seemed unable to provide anything more than a constant stream of pro-police clich├ęs.

CBC TV's Saturday night hockey broadcast once again allowed commentator Don Cherry to assume the role of "mourner-in-chief" while unleashing his usual "man-of-the-people" torrent of pro-police sentiments.

The coverage was more pandering to a police force that has been under attack for their violation of civil rights during last summer's G20 summit in Toronto. The police must have known that their friends in the media would come to a resuscitation of their tattered reputation. And the media did not disappoint.

At a time when the media relies more than ever on the government as a source of information (weather, traffic and crime), it was payback time.

The police must be delighted with the coverage.

3 comments:

  1. Authority is being questioned at all levels, but authority doesn't seem to be getting the message. We saw the front page picture in the Globe and Mail of the wall of blue marching to camera. My wife commented looking at it, "I'd hate to bump into any of those faces at the end of a dark alley one night". Why the need to frighten?

    Perhaps more importantly why does the media need to "frighten" with it's mass coverage? Tell the story truthfully and with respect and let the reader/viewer draw their own conclusions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There was a moment when the sight of thousands of silent marching men in uniform would have evoked a anxious response in my central European ancestors. This was designed (so I tell my students) to evoke a sense of "moral panic" in the audience. The purpose? Solidarity. Compassion. Respect. All good things. But also fear. The media did the cops unquestioned bidding.
    And protesters might now think twice before challenging them again.

    ReplyDelete