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Media coverage of N.L. correctional officers missing the mark, says study



The front entrance of Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's, NL. The prison sign is hung on a pale yellow wall, bordering a brick wall with barbed wire on top.
Correctional officers at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s described feeling ‘voiceless and vulnerable to media representations’ in a recent academic study. (Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press)

When asked about the public’s perception of his former line of work, retired correctional officer David Harvey sighs.

“We’re just so stereotyped,” Harvey said.

“What most people know about correctional officers [comes from] either, you know, seeing a movie or TV show. And a lot of times you see this guy walking down a hallway with his baton hitting the bars — and honest to God, you know, a lot of people think that’s what we do all day long.”

Screen depictions aren’t entirely to blame for these stereotypes, according to Harvey. He said local media coverage of correctional officers also plays a large role. And during Harvey’s 30-year career at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John’s — and in the years since his retirement in 2014 — he said media coverage of correctional officers has been “mostly negative.”


“A lot of the time the full story never, ever came out,” he said.

As an example, Harvey brought up the three correctional officers who intervened during the 2014 prison riot at HMP. In the online footage of the incident, Harvey said, “you can see our correctional officers in there jumping in — no weapons, no nothing — and trying to save people.”

But in the ensuing media coverage of the riot, Harvey said the correctional officers’ actions that day were never highlighted.

“You know these positive things that officers do, they’re just never, ever brought up,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s looking for a medal, that’s not my thing. You know, people know what they’re getting into when they get into this job. But the negativity — it just hurts a lot of people.”

Retired correctional officer David Harvey is pictured in front of artifacts from Her Majesty's Penitentiary.
Dave Harvey retired as a captain at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in 2014. During his career, he says media coverage of correctional officers was ‘mostly negative.’ (Gary Locke/CBC)

‘If you’re just someone that just follows the news, you’ll probably hate us’

Harvey is not alone in his concerns.

According to a recent study, News media framing of correctional officers: “Corrections is so Negative, we don’t get any Good Recognition,” media coverage is a common source of worry and unease for correctional officers in St. John’s.

Memorial University researchers Rosemary Ricciardelli, Mark Stoddart and Heather Austin interviewed 25 correctional officers employed at HMP in 2019 for the study. The authors also analyzed news articles featuring correctional officers published that year in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Very few news articles had anything positive to say about correctional officers, according to Ricciardelli. She also said the “nuance of the job and the reality of the job” was never discussed.

“Most of [the articles were] relatively negative and often tied to any sort of incident that was occurring down at HMP and other institutions on the island,” Ricciardelli said.

Multiple correctional officers spoke about the impact of these media depictions.

“If you’re just someone that just follows the news, you’ll probably hate us,” said one correctional officer quoted anonymously in the study.

“Nobody knows what goes on here. … They only see what comes out on the news,” said another unnamed worker.

Fearing scrutiny from strangers, some correctional officers said that because of this media coverage, they refuse to wear their uniforms in public.

Still, Ricciardelli said, the correctional officers she interviewed expressed great pride in their jobs.

“They just wish that people could see their role for all the nuance that it is. Because they are first responders,” she said. “They’re the ones who would put out a fire if there was a fire. They respond to medical emergencies and they preserve public safety, or enforce the laws within the institutions.”

Rosemary Ricciardelli is pictured in front of a bookcase.
Memorial University sociology and criminology professor Rosemary Ricciardelli is a co-author of the study, ‘News media framing of correctional officers: ‘Corrections is so Negative, we don’t get any Good Recognition.’ (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

As well, Ricciardelli said, correctional officers set up phone calls, facilitate meetings with lawyers and encourage inmates to attend prison programs.

“There are challenges,” Ricciardelli continued, “and there’s many things that can bring [correctional officers] down. But you also see these individuals who are really motivated to make an impact in a person’s life.”

A number of correctional officers also relayed their experiences of saving inmates’ lives. Ricciardelli said that as a researcher in this field, she often hears correctional officers share these kinds of experiences.

“For example, if I take a sample of 100 correctional officers, I’m guessing probably 60-70 will tell me about a life they saved,” said Ricciardelli.

If Harvey was included in that hypothetical sample, he could share an experience from about 15 years ago — though in his case, Harvey wasn’t able to save the inmate in question. The inmate died of suicide. Still, Harvey said he and his co-workers followed all protocols before the man’s death.

“And I remember, I think it was about two weeks later, actually, I received a thank you card,” he said.

“It was this person’s sister [who] sent me a thank you card, thanking me and the other officers for doing what we did to try and save her brother’s life.”

That card meant a great deal to Harvey.

“I still have it home,” he said.

Correctional officers want a media spokesperson, study says

Like many workers, correctional officers are not permitted to speak openly with the media. In Newfoundland and Labrador, all correctional officers are members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE). Union president Jerry Earle is the official media spokesperson for over 25,000 employees represented by that union.

As it stands, Ricciardelli said, the correctional officers she and her co-authors interviewed feel voiceless.

“There was a hope that maybe they could have a communications person who could kind of give their perspective and their side, because things look a lot worse, or sound a lot worse, than perhaps they actually are,” said Ricciardelli.

St John’s Morning Show10:09Correctional officers say they’re getting too much bad press

Correctional officers want to help the public learn more about the jobs they’re doing inside prison walls, and they have some thoughts on how to make that happen. We hear from retired correctional officer David Harvey, and one of the authors of that study, Rose Ricciardelli.

Ricciardelli said this wish for a correctional officer media spokesperson should not be construed as a wish for less accountability.

“Changing perceptions — it’s not about decreasing accountability in any way,” she said. “It’s about giving equity so people can explain themselves.”

Harvey also likes the idea of a correctional officer-specific spokesperson, and said he’d hope this individual could relay what correctional officers “really” do and even put a little good news out there.

“Prison is not a real ‘good news’ place to work,” said Harvey.

“But on occasion, you know, there are some good things that happen down there. But no one ever hears about that.”



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Vatican singles out bishops in urging reflective not reactive social media use



VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Monday urged the Catholic faithful, and especially bishops, to be “reflective, not reactive” on social media, issuing guidelines to try to tame the toxicity on Catholic Twitter and other social media platforms and encourage users to instead be “loving neighbors.”

The Vatican’s communications office issued a “pastoral reflection” to respond to questions it has fielded for years about a more responsible, Christian use of social media and the risks online that accompany the rise of fake news and artificial intelligence.

For decades the Holy See has offered such thoughts on different aspects of communications technologies, welcoming the chances for encounter they offer but warning of the pitfalls. Pope Francis of late has warned repeatedly about the risk of young people being so attached to their cell phones that they stop face-to-face friendships.

The new document highlights the divisions that can be sown on social media, and the risk of users remaining in their “silos” of like-minded thinkers and rejecting those who hold different opinions. Such tendencies can result in exchanges that “can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices,” the document said.


It warned that such problematic exchanges are particularly worrisome “when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors, and prominent lay leaders. These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication,” the message said.

The message could be directed at the English-speaking Catholic Twittersphere, where some prominent Catholic figures, including bishops, frequently engage in heated debates or polemical arguments that criticize Francis and his teachings.

The prefect of the communications office, Paolo Ruffini, said it wasn’t for him to rein in divisive bishops and it was up to their own discernment. But he said the general message is one of not feeding the trolls or taking on “behavior that divides rather than unites.”



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Russia says U.S. Senator should say if Ukraine took his words out of context



MOSCOW, May 29 (Reuters) – Russia on Monday said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham should say publicly if he believes his words were taken out of context by a Ukrainian state video edit of his comments about the war that provoked widespread condemnation in Moscow.

In an edited video released by the Ukrainian president’s office of Graham’s meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Friday, Graham was shown saying “the Russians are dying” and then saying U.S. support was the “best money we’ve ever spent”.

After Russia criticised the remarks, Ukraine released a full video of the meeting on Sunday which showed the two remarks were not directly linked.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Western media had sought to shield the senator from criticism and said that Graham should publicly state if he feels his words were taken out of context by the initial Ukrainian video edit.


“If U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham considers his words were taken out of context by the Ukrainian regime and he doesn’t actually think in the way presented then he can make a statement on video with his phone,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a video posted on Telegram.

“Only then will we know: does he think the way that was said or was it a performance by the Kyiv regime?”

Graham’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The initial video of Graham’s remarks triggered criticism from across Moscow, including from the Kremlin, Putin’s powerful Security Council and from the foreign ministry.

Graham said he had simply praised the spirit of Ukrainians in resisting a Russian invasion with assistance provided by Washington.

Graham said he had mentioned to Zelenskiy “that Ukraine has adopted the American mantra, ‘Live Free or Die.’ It has been a good investment by the United States to help liberate Ukraine from Russian war criminals.”

Russia’s interior ministry has put Graham on a wanted list after the Investigative Committee said it was opening a criminal probe into his comments. It did not specify what crime he was suspected of.

In response, Graham said: “I will wear the arrest warrant issued by Putin’s corrupt and immoral government as a Badge of Honor.

“…I will continue to stand with and for Ukraine’s freedom until every Russian soldier is expelled from Ukrainian territory.”

A South Carolina Republican known for his hawkish foreign policy views, Graham has been an outspoken champion of increased military support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Jamie Sarkonak: Liberals bring identity quotas to Canada Media Fund



In 2021, the Liberals said they would dramatically boost funding for the Canada Media Fund. And they did — but that funding came with diversity quotas and a new emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

It’s another bald-faced example of the Liberals infusing identity into public (or publicly-funded-but-government-adjacent) media programs to craft Canada in their image. Now, the program is beholden to diversity-based budgeting (with diversity “targets” in its largest funding branch), an identity tracking system for content producers and a “narrative positioning” policy that guides how stories about certain groups are told.

The Canada Media Fund is supposed to oversee a funding pool that supports the creation of Canadian media projects in the areas of drama, kids’ programming, documentaries and even video games. According to its most recent annual report, about half its revenue ($184 million) comes from the federal government through the Department of Canadian Heritage (another near-half comes from broadcasting companies through the country’s broadcasting regulator, the CRTC). The department also has the power to appoint two of the fund’s board members.

It’s a lot of money, but there’s a good rationale for domestic media production behind it. Canadian producers might not be able to secure funding for homegrown projects without it, which would make Canadians even more dependent on the U.S. for entertainment than we are already.


The Canada Media Fund is doing a lot more than broadly funding content creation, though. With more federal funding brought in after the past election, it is now responsible for greenlighting projects to meet identity quotas set out by the Liberals.

According to the Canada Media Fund’s contract with Canadian Heritage, which has been obtained by the National Post through a previously-completed access to information request, the number of projects funded with government-sourced dollars and led by “people of equity-deserving groups” will have to amount to 45 by 2024. The number of “realized projects” for people of these groups must amount to 25 by 2024. Finally, by 2024, a quarter of funded “key creative positions” must be held by people from designated diversity groups.

These funding quotas are similar to the CBC’s new diversity requirements for budgeting. When the CBC’s broadcasting licence was renewed by the CRTC last year, it was required to dedicate 30 per cent of its independent content production budget to diverse groups, which will rise to 35 per cent in 2026. While the CRTC is arm’s-length from government, a Liberal-appointed CRTC commissioner appeared eager to impose quotas that were on par with the governing party’s agenda on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The government’s agreement with the Canada Media Fund also sets aside $20 million of the new money explicitly for people considered diverse enough to check a box — anyone from “sovereignty-seeking” and “equity-seeking” groups.

“’Sovereignty- and Equity-Seeking Community’ refers to the individuals who identify as women, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Racialized, 2SLGBTQ+, Persons with disabilities/Disabled Persons, Regional, and Official Language Minority Community,” reads the Canada Media Fund’s explainer on who gets diversity status.

For the most part, everyone other than straight, white, non-disabled men get special treatment by the fund.

Aside from getting mandatory coverage through the use of quotas, the groups listed above are shielded with “narrative positioning” policies that took effect this year. If the main character, key storyline, or subject matter has anything to do with the above groups, creators must either be from that group or take “comprehensive measures that have and will be undertaken to create the content responsibly, thoughtfully and without harm.” These can include consultations, sharing of ownership rights, and hiring policies from the community. While narrative requirements weren’t mandated by the Liberals in their grant to the fund, they complement the overall DEI strategy.

Storytellers vying for certain grants have to sign an attestation form agreeing with the narrative policy and write a compliance plan if their works have anything to do with the above groups. Plainly, it’s a force of narrative control.

This doesn’t go both ways; women can make documentaries about men consult-free, non-white people can make TV dramas about white people consult-free, and so on.

Statistically, diversity is being tracked on a internal system that logs the identities of key staff and leadership on every Canada Media Fund project. The diversity repository was rolled out this year. Internal documents indicate these stats will be used to monitor program progress and adjust policy going forward.

These changes are all directly linked to a Liberal platform point on media modernization. In the 2021 Liberal platform, the party committed to doubling the government’s contribution to the fund. Since then, the Liberal platform has been cited directly in internal documents outlining the Canada Media Fund’s three-year growth strategy (which explains how the new money will be used, in part, to ramp up DEI efforts).

Together, it looks like both the fund, and the party responsible for doubling its taxpayer support are more concerned about the identities of filmmakers and TV producers than the actual media being produced.

Creators should be able to tell stories about others without the narrative department’s oversight — the more narrative control, the more it starts to sound like propaganda. Good creators wanting to tell an authentic story should conduct research and be respectful of the people they cover — but they shouldn’t be bound to consultations and ownership agreements.

National Post



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