In today’s society, media has the power to reach billions of people, and to influence the way the public frames topics of interest. Whether it is popular television news channels, the internet or newspapers, media sources inform the public on a daily basis of what is happening around the world. This information, however, does not exist without discourse; the media perspective, as with any opinion, cannot help but provide a lens through which the public receives information. That lens is worded, phrased, and discussed in ways that – intentionally or not – shed light on certain areas of an issue, while leaving others in the shadows. Consequently, this reporting lens affects the way the public thinks about a certain issue, and affects the subsequent decisions they make when addressing it. Human trafficking is not a new phenomenon; in fact, it has existed for thousands of years. With the proliferation of media in modern culture, human trafficking has become a topic on the forefront of global migration issues. While distributing information in order to foster knowledge and awareness, the media nonetheless contains assumptions and biases – both intentional and unintentional – that affect the way human trafficking is viewed by both the public and the policy-makers. By using gendered lens, focusing on criminal causations, and propagating the idea that enforcement is the only solution to trafficking, the media portrays human trafficking in a very different light than true statistical evidence and academic research supports. The goal of this paper is to reveal how Canadian media portrays human trafficking to the public, and how their assumptions affect the policies and perceptions of this issue. Methodology for this paper consisted of a collection of newspaper articles that were sourced online. I chose the top 3 English-language newspapers in Canada, in order to gather a Canadian demographic of readership: The Toronto Star (ranked number 1), the Globe and Mail (2) and the Vancouver Sun (6). This ranking was determined by the paper’s total circulation from 2007 to 2011, indicating the range of each newspaper’s readership, and demonstrating the reach of newspaper media to the public (Wikipedia, 2013). As there were no sources originally cited, I cross-referenced the top newspapers with the daily circulation statistics provided by Newspapers Canada, which supported the previous website’s conclusions (Newspapers Canada, 2013). Thus, the statement that the above newspapers are the most circulated in Canada is accurate. Using the three newspapers, I searched the online databases using the key word ‘human trafficking’; taking the first ten articles that specifically addressed the topic of human trafficking from each search, I categorized them based on the story trigger, sources of information, actors, causes, and solutions. This allowed several dominant patterns within the sample media representation to clearly emerge. The first of three assumptions that the media repeatedly makes in regards to human trafficking is that of gendering. As demonstrated through the sample articles, and mentioned throughout scholarly sources, legislators and the media focus heavily on women, children, and the consequent gendered work like prostitution. By gendering the media’s approach towards human trafficking, other geographies are pushes aside in favour of more publicly-relatable areas of focus. Articles such as the Toronto Star’s “Younger and younger girls forced into prostitution because of economic crisis: Report” (Goldsmith, 2012) and the Globe and Mail’s “There are better ways to help foreign strippers than kicking them out of the country” (The Globe and Mail, 2012) exemplify the focus of media on gendered professions. Media framing of human trafficking largely focuses on sex trafficking and prostitution, both rooted in female-gender roles and equality (Kempadoo, 2005). However, this assumptive gendering of the mainstream...
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