By Lethbridge Herald on September 29, 2023.
Leave it to Beeber
With a week of autumn yard cleanup starting in coming days, this will be my final column until Oct. 12.
While some make an annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas or Hawaii, mine is to the city yard waste centre on the westside to haul shrubs, fines, leaves, whatever organic matter I can throw into gargantuan paper leaf bags, which also come in handy to line the green carts that we now have.
But this column isn’t about what I have planned – I don’t want to jinx myself after cutting my leg open with an electric hedge trimmer last October which left a pretty nasty scar.
Instead I think it’s time to reiterate what the role of journalists is.
And one thing we aren’t is unpaid publicity departments, a point I’ve made time and time again. But it doesn’t hurt to bring it up again because from one direction or another, we in the media are always under fire for what we cover and how.
The last time I looked we aren’t paid by political parties, government, business or anyone else to write their press releases or do their bidding.
Yes this newspaper get funding from the federal government for two contract news positions for which we had successful applications. That funding specifically is for us to do stories in areas in which there are so-called news deserts.
For the second year in a row, we’ve been able to have someone focus efforts on stories related to the Indigenous community which is a prominent, and valuable, part of southern Alberta. I’ve recently been having discussions with Pam Blood of the the Blood Tribe about stories ideas to promote and highlight the successes of Indigenous peoples in southern Alberta which I can have my reporter Theodora Macleod tackle.
And you’ve seen the number of stories we’ve been doing this week during Truth and Reconciliation Week, coverage which has been extensive.
We also were approved in summer for funding to pay a reporter – Steffanie Costigan – to tackle the subjects of homelessness and crime in Lethbridge.
These are hot topics here and the number of stories is limitless.
While an argument can be made the federal Crime Severity Index is skewed given that other communities are included in Lethbridge’s figures, there can be no argument that crime is a problem here.
And much of that crime happens in downtown. It’s a fact.
Anyone who questions that needs only to look at website cityprotect.com which lists where crimes occur in Lethbridge and what types of crimes they are.
This site is fantastic if you want to see what is happening in your particular neighbourhood of Lethbridge and you shouldn’t be surprised to see much of the crime – and much of the serious crime – is happening in the downtown core.
We know people are fed up with the issues in this part of the city from drug use and defecation in doorways to assaults and other negative behaviours. And we’re hearing often from readers who appreciate the spotlight we’re putting on these matters. We’re being responsive to community concerns and taxpayers have many concerns about crime and homelessness, and downtown is the epicentre for much of both.
I’ve heard businesses question what they’re getting for the money they pay to support the Downtown BRZ which is facing challenges of its own trying to attract businesses and customers to the core. Sarah Amies and company don’t have an enviable job trying to convince potential commercial tenants to invest here.
One convenience store I used to frequent closed down several years ago because of the amount of shoplifting which made it financially impossible to continue operating. How many other businesses have left the area because of theft or fear of customers to tread downtown? Sounds like a story to me!
It’s our job as journalists to show the community what is happening here, not to put lipstick on a pig and tell people it’s actually a princess. It’s not our job to convince people of a certain narrative that others may want to push.
Along with the good that’s happening here, we have to show the bad and the ugly. And there is plenty of the latter two in Lethbridge. It’s a reality.
And as much as all of us in the media want to do the the feel-good, heart-warming stories, if we sugarcoat – or smear lipstick on – the truth, we aren’t doing our jobs. And community members are regularly letting us know we’re doing what we should be doing – providing them with the truth. And sometimes the truth can hurt.