Power and the newsprint media’s framing of the Downtown Eastside

Author/s:  Sikee Liu

Creation date: 2010  

Contact info: Sikeeliu@gmail.com

Senior supervisor: Nicholas Blomley

Keywords:  Downtown Eastside, news framing, power relations, social construction, news media, content analysis

Geographic focus: Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, BC; Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: How is inner city space represented and by whom?


The newsprint media’s portrayal of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) is often taken as just an objective reflection of the DTES without taking into account the media’s constitutive capacity and the power relations embedded in such representations. Thus, the media has broad social implications, affecting such phenomena as DTES-related public policy and social movements, and ultimately, the DTES itself.


Based on a content analysis of 247 articles in The Vancouver Sun and The Province published from 1997 to 2008, the author found that the media’s dominant framing of the DTES reproduces and is, in part, a reflection of the existing asymmetric power relations of society. Consequently, this hegemonic framing doubly stigmatizes the DTES: firstly, privileging outsiders’ monochromatic portrayals of the DTES as a problematic space defined through the medicalization, criminalization, and socialization lenses, and secondly, framing its residents as passive social actors who are incapable of constructive change.

External publications: "Making news and making space: Framing Vancouver's Downtown Eastside" in The Canadian Geographer. Volume 57, Issue 2, pages 119–132, Summer 2013.