Sunday, March 28, 2004


Last week I asked why the Globe and Mail in a story about a Montreal and Toronto kidnapping felt it necessary to identify various people involved as being 'Vietnamese' and of 'Vietanamese origin.' I received this response from the Globe:

Mr Fletcher:

In response to your questions, I offer the following background, courtesy of the reporters and editor involved in the story.

The information about the origin of the men came from police briefings, both in Toronto and Montreal; the police considered the information about the ethnicity of the people involved to relevant or they would not have released it.

Normally, we do not consider the race or ethnicity of the people we write about to be important to the story unless that information is relevant. In this case, given that our readers are probably aware that Asian gangs have been known to target members of their own communities for extortion, we were pretty much obliged to repeat what the police told us: That the name of the victim was Le Quang Tin and that they were seeking three suspects of Vietnamese origin (as opposed to Caucasian or African origin). We believe it would have looked a little odd to do otherwise.

Earle Gill
Director, Editorial Administration
The Globe and Mail

I don't know if I'm satisfied by this explanation. I read the original story again and the way the men are identified still strikes me as odd. First, it is not entirely clear from the article that the 'Vietnamese' identification came from the police. If the Globe thinks a detail is relevant only because the police reported it, then that should be made very clear.

Finally, Mr. Gill suggests that the police felt the crime was related to Asian gangs. However, this does not come out in the original story. The men are simply identified as 'Vietnamese,' then 'extortion' is mentioned as a motive, and the reader is left to infer the rest for himself. If the police thought that the ethnicity of the suspects and victims was relevant because of a conection to Asian gang violence then why did the Globe report the former detail but not the necessary latter connection? It seems somewhat sloppy to me.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:06 a.m.