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Monday, November 21, 2005 

This is who I am

I'm not exactly easy to get to know, so even close friends might not know what follows. Which is why I'm sharing. Longtime readers may remember veiled references to a 'mission'. This is it.

You've seen my cynicism and bouts of nihilism; here's a glimpse of my idealism.

I went to university to study criminology and political science so I could go into research and find answers to crime so that we could stop it. In second year I found some of the answers I sought in a text book. Over the rest of my undergrad I found many of the rest in more text books and in the research literature.

I decided on politics as a means to my end. If the answers were there but not used, then they needed someone in office to put them to use. Political science quickly taught me that democratic politicians are largely bound by the beliefs of the people they govern.

I decided on lobbying and activism as the means. If politicians need to act within the restrictions of what their people will accept, then the people needed to be convinced of what needs to be done. Political science again showed me the problem with that. Lobbyists and activists are too dogmatic and too sure of their idea of the truth. They can be wrong, but will continue insisting they're right.

In third year I found journalism. It's not perfect, but it's the best means out there. Ideally it's about giving people the information they need to make decisions for themselves.

The problem, as I see it, is that people don't know enough about crime and its causes to decide what should be done about it. In general, they learn about it through the media (news, entertainment, etc.) or through direct and limited experience. They don't learn about what causes crime. They don't learn because criminology is not covered in the same way that other sciences are covered.

Then they decide what should be done out of ignorance and pain and anger. It's like getting mad and hitting a computer with a hammer when it doesn't do what you want it to do. You might feel better, but you're no better off.

Which is what I want to change.

One of Canada's leading crime reporters told me recently that what he does is try to give people a looking glass into the justice system. That's a noble and necessary thing, but it's not what I want to do.

What I will do is give people a looking glass into the study of crime. I will report on: new findings in criminology, alternative approaches to crime and alternative ideas of justice.

I will be a journalist, with my first loyalty to the public and the truth as my priority. In pursuit of the truth I will seek out people on all sides of whatever story I'm working on. I will use the tools of journalism to give people the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for themselves about crime and public policy.

The last seven years have been about positioning myself, about getting the education and experience I need. So will the next five.

I have three interconnected goals: an informed and engaged public; intelligent policy; and justice.

Now you know.