Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letters

Flack from 'Terrible' Story

One good typo can ruin your whole day

Submitted by Sarah Timbs

 

am writing with regard to an article published in the Sunday, April 14 edition of your newspaper: The Terrible 12s. While the behaviour of this troubled child is extremely problematic and cause for concern, I am uncomfortable with the way that the writer emphasizes his African descent.

 

This fact is noted twice in the first 6 sentences (in the second case, redundantly). In both sentences, the child's African descent is not relevant to the context in which it is mentioned. It has nothing to do with the destructive activities that are described. Later in the article, the word "black" is used unnecessarily. (It would be sufficient simply to write that "a kid matching MD's description allegedly went into a diner . . . .") By comparison, I notice that other articles in your newspaper do not mention the ancestry of their subjects.

The only place it might be appropriate to mention attributes such as "descent" would be in the context of an alert or warning to readers, such as "The boy is described as being of African descent and smaller than average for an 11-year-old. He often carries a red backpack." This would be similar to a newspaper report that might, for example, write of an adult that "The suspect is described as white, 32 years of age, with red hair and a moustache. He is thought to being driving a 2002 Toyota Corolla."

Perhaps my point seems overly sensitive or politically correct. However, I believe that the above examples inintentionally reflect a subtle but pervasive historic media bias against visible minorities that fosters social division and is unacceptable.

Thank you for your attention.
 

 

Editor's Response:

 

Hello Sara,

First off, there is an old saying, that goes something like; there are no bad kids, there are just kids. Sometimes the mayhem they cause isn't so nice.

You're so thoughtful and kind for taking the time to point out the grammatical issue. I actually amended it immediately. It was a redundant typo in a cut and paste world and I apologize for that. Purely unintentional I assure you ma'am.

 

The Voice is produced by some half-blind old guy and at times the quality of the content has been known to suddenly drop for a few reasons, but it's usually the time factor and that it's just difficult editing your own material. Print guys have two or three sets of eyes going over copy. So it's very challenging, if not impossible, to try and have each story perfect. This time I actually I have a valid excuse after doing an all-nighter with techs trying to get the Voice back up and running. For the first time in Five years the site was down, and for over 12 hours.

"African" is only used in this context as a means of identification and not in a derogatory way. Any indication of that is unintentional. It was used because a lot of 12-yr-old kids tend to look alike in hoodies etc. If it was a Caucasian kid, that would have been mentioned, because it was a known identifying factor.  If you doubt the objective of the story was to do anything less than to help the boy then you'd be mistaken. Check out our Watoto story.

 

If businesses saw the young boy coming on one of  his regular bombing missions of mayhem, they could alert each other and authorities and have a chance to protect their investments.

 

The lad obviously knows what he can get away with.

My concern by bringing this up to begin with, was to see if it was possible to get the kid some help. I wrestled with the fact that this boy is already getting the help he needs from some of the best child care services in the world. Plus, I think there are many safeguards in place to ensure that at-risk kids don't slip through the cracks. Having said that, it is understandable that it still does happen.

 

I can talk a little on how developmentally disabled children and adults are cared for in Washington because I have some knowledge of that system.

This op-ed was issued last week as an alert to the local business community who are the ones being victimized here. Many in the downtown core have just packed up and moved. Others are just a couple of glass breaks away from being put out of business permanently. I have a duty to report what I know to the community and our Voice readership.

 

Just last night last night the kid went missing again. More police resources were frittered away.

 

There was a huge level of concern expressed from local health officials and from Fraser Health over this story. That was the objective. To raise awareness that something is going on here that maybe isn't working and needs fixing.

So I think you do get it, and I think our readers get it as well.

Everyone makes mistakes. I do believe there is one in your e-mail above that somehow got past the spellcheckers.

 

One good typo can ruin your whole day. Freelance typesetters often pay dearly for an un-dotted i. Especially if its a four colour process job. I once worked for two weeks for nothing over a single character typo. It wasn't even a big typo!

 

Or, if you've ever used text to send a lover a message, you'll know that just when you're getting to the juiciest part something always ... hippens. One well-placed typo could end up spelling the word divorce too.

 

Thanks for your patience and understanding. Your feedback is important, as is your support for indie media.