January 29, 2016 1:12 pm
Updated: January 30, 2016 12:27 pm

Digging Deeper: the media’s role in covering La Loche

WATCH ABOVE: FNUniv. and U of R journalism instructor Shannon Avison discusses media coverage of the tragedy in La Loche.


Every Friday at 7:05 a.m., the Global Regina Morning News is joined by a guest for ‘Digging Deeper’ to unpack an issue that’s making headlines.

REGINA – Seven days after the tragic shootings in La Loche, Sask., journalists from Saskatchewan and across Canada are now beginning to leave the small community after telling the stories of the victims and local leaders.

At times, the news media has been the subject of criticism in the north, including suggestions that media members from outside northern Saskatchewan have only a superficial understanding of the issues in La Loche, and are disrespectful of the community’s history.

READ MORE: Remote First Nation communities have been facing ‘tragedy’ long before La Loche, chief says

On Friday, the Morning News was joined by Shannon Avison, an instructor with the University of Regina’s journalism program and First Nations University of Canada’s Indian Communication Arts program, to discuss the role of journalists in covering the events that played out on January 26.

Q: What are the criticisms news outlets face in covering tragedies, particularly in a community like La Loche?

Avison: La Loche is a really private place. I think Aboriginal people, for a long time, have had the experience of being what they see as maligned. Violence and conflict often dominate the news. As a result, that’s the focus of a lot news stories that come out of La Loche.

“This is a very human story, one where families are suffering, a community is suffering.”

They know there are lots of good stories coming out of their community, lots of role models, and they’re not covered.

Q: How can journalists better balance the need to tell the story with respecting the privacy of people affected?

Avison: That’s a challenge for any story. This is a very human story, one where families are suffering, a community is suffering. Victims want to express themselves, but there comes a time where you want to be by yourself to sort things out and adjust to your new reality, which is very different when you’ve lost four people in your community.

Tashina Montgrand lays flowers outside the La Loche Community School as her daughters Tayala and Tayvah look on in La Loche, Sask.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

Q: What’s the understanding of community members impacted by tragedy that they too have a role to play in sharing their story to the outside world?

Avison: Journalists are doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re going into the community and talking to as many people as they can. The challenge is there are so many people there. For example, I’ve heard there are 100 RCMP officers there right now, with only 2,600 people in the whole community. They must feel extremely overwhelmed. At such a challenging time, their privacy, their ability to work together to resolve things is really being challenged.

People don’t understand the time constraints journalists are faced with, so the journalists aren’t trying to be rude, they’re just trying to do a good job of sharing those stories so people (elsewhere in the country) have a sense of that community and a sense of what those people are going through.

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