Cop Beat

Cop reporters are a strange breed. It seems as though all the reporters I know in Alberta have been (or still are) on the cop beat. Reporting on crime, day in and day out for a daily newspaper seems to be a numbing experience. There is no focus in daily newspaper reporting on the social conditions surrounding crime. Reports usually focus on the shocking nature of a crime. The more grotesque, the more likely to appear on A1.

With this attitude comes an alarming tendancy to sensationalize crime. I don’t want to say that my friends do it to get their bylines on prime newspaper real estate, but I’m sure editors love those stories (so do advertising departments…).

That’s why the coverage of Thomas George Svekla’s arrest has been so interesting. I have followed the Edmonton Journal’s coverage of his arrest, and the Edmonton’s coverage of his arrest. The difference in tone is stark.

Read today’s Edmonton Journal story here. Read the version here.

You will notice that the Edmonton Journal version mentions the serial killer Edmonton Police have been after for years. When I spoke an Edmonton Journal reporter a few months ago, he/she/it seemed pretty excited about writing the story when the Police finally caught the serial killer. Now, I don’t know anyone at in Edmonton, so I can’t say if they had a different attitude. Perhaps it is the excitement in the newsroom that led to this coverage.

But when the police say it would be “dangerous and far too early” to link the serial killer to Svekla’s arrest, you should probably not include the two in the same story (the CBC story makes mention of the serial killer in the kicker, the Edmonton Journal in the fourth graph).

Just a thought. 

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