Portraits of People Who Are Homeless in the Canadian Media: Investigating the Journalists behind the Stories

Katharina Kovacs Burns, Solina Richter, Jean Chaw Kant

Abstract


Homelessness is a complex social issue facing many communities in Canada, but most people, including policy makers have not talked or associated with someone who is homeless. Their experience is most often acquired through the skillfully framed stories of media journalists and reporters. How do journalists acquire their knowledge and frame the story in ways that impact and influence the public or policy makers in forming their perceptions? Why have they taken the position they have with the story? These and other questions about the journalists themselves, are rarely pursued, but are of value in revealing the motivation, objectivity and subjective biases in their story-telling. With social issues such as homelessness, this is of relevance as perspectives and decisions can be influenced which could have positive or negative consequences. Based on this premise, a mixed methods case study involving journalists’ motivation for writing about homelessness and how they framed their stories was pursued. Our results reveal that journalists feel that social issues, such as homelessness, are more challenging to report about as they are personally affected with what they see and hear. Their personal experiences, as well as what they want others to feel, influence what and how they frame their reporting on this situation. They do want to impact the public and policy makers – increasing their awareness and advocating for changes. Their preferences for story topics, framing considerations and impact goals reveal who they are as the people behind the media stories.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/smc.v1i2.219

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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