Review in Herizons Magazine, Winter 2011

Missing Women, Missing News
Covering Crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

By David Hugill  

In 2007, the missing and murdered women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside made regular front-page headlines as Robert Pickton went to trial for 27 counts of first degree murder. Four years later, David Hugill’s landmark book Missing Women, Missing News: Covering Crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside reignites the story.

In his intellectually challenging and astonishingly thought provoking book, Hugill provides a rich analysis of how Canadian print media failed to provide sufficient coverage of the crisis. Drawing on the news stories, headlines and photographs of more than 150 artilcles from the Globe and Mail, National Post and Toronto Star, Hugill argues that mainstream news coverage reduced the murders and disappearances of 60 Vancouver women, most of whom were Aboriginal, to a series of random events.

The media’s focus on the apparently random nature of the crimes, according to Hugill, created a story in which Pickton and police negligence were the sole factors responsible for the serial killings. Hugill argues that the media ignored the broader and more complex ways in which the state also played a central role in the crisis.

He traces the connections between federal laws on prostitution, the treatment of Aboriginal people under the Indian Act and Vancouver’s weakened social welfare system in order to demonstrate the state’s involvement in the crisis. Hugill boldly argues that until there is a serious dialogue about the Canadian state’s active role in marginalizing specific gendered and racialized bodies, low-income women will remain vulnerable to peripheral street-level sex work, poverty and murder.

Missing Women, Missing News will sharpen your analytical skills as they relate to news stories. It will also become a core text in interdisciplinary undergraduate courses that focus on gender and the neo-liberal city.- Katie Palmer, Herizons, Summer 2011.

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