It was unfair for the Toronto Sun to call Canadian street nurse and advocate for the homeless Cathy Crowe a “poverty pimp,” the National Newsmedia Council ruled.
Crowe complained about the Toronto Sun‘s January column “Fewer councillors but same grandstanding.” It referenced her briefly in a column about a Toronto City Council meeting. Crowe argued the label “suggested the use of fear, force, coercion and abuse towards people who are homeless, and that the use of the term falsely framed her work with the marginalized in a pejorative manner,” the council explained.
“I’m pleased with the process and of course the decision,” Crowe told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “It was the first time in over 30 years of work as a street nurse, which has always involved working with members of the media (interviews, referrals for their stories, etc), that I felt the need to make a complaint at this level. In particular I didn’t want the term to become normalized due to its connotation, let alone inaccuracy, nor did I want younger street nurses to experience such targeted language.”
The Sun defended the column as fair comment and offered to let Crowe submit a letter to the editor or a column, but Crowe wasn’t satisfied that would rectify the label. The media council’s “panelists noted while the complainant’s reputation is bound up in advocacy for the homeless, guided by a professional code of ethics, the column offered no evidence that she had profited from that advocacy, nor was any explanation provided in the January 30 column,” the council’s ruling explained.
The “Council found that use of the term in the January 30, 2019 column did not pass the journalistic test for “fair comment” based on provable facts presented in the story,” it said in its decision on Crowe’s complaint. “As a result, it found the phrase to be an inaccurate and unfair characterization.”
In 2016, Crowe complained to the Toronto Star about its photo showing two homeless men, as iMediaEthics reported. The Star agreed to remove the photo.