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Newsletter: In Scarborough, residents feel media gets the story wrong

Here’s our weekly newsletter on all things #GTADiscourse. We’re Emma and Sadiya, reporters at The Discourse.

We’ve been talking to residents in Brampton, Little Portugal, Willowdale and Scarborough — communities whose diverse stories aren’t captured well by existing media. (To learn more about how The Discourse chose these four places, read this.)

Last week, we were in Scarborough listening to longtime residents, artists and community-builders. We conducted in-depth interviews with 15 residents, asking everyone the same 11 questions about how they get information and what local stories they think deserve more attention. One consistent theme we’re hearing is that while Scarborough is part of Toronto (it amalgamated in 1998), its limited and decrepit transit system can make residents feel isolated from the rest of the city.

If you live in one of the four #GTADiscourse communities and have a few minutes to spare, please share your story ideas by completing our brief survey. What you tell us will help us decide what to report on. Here are some highlights from our interviews so far:

What do you love about Scarborough?

Randell Adjei, 26, is the founder of Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E), a multidisciplinary collective of artists and activists primarily located in Scarborough’s east end.

Randell Adjei wants people to get to know the beauty that he sees in Scarborough, both in terms of its people and its natural environment. “I think Scarborough is the rose that grew from concrete,” he says. “I think it’s still budding. People often see us as the outskirts of Toronto, but there’s so much beauty that has come out of this place.”

What many people don’t know about Scarborough, Randell adds, is that it’s full of green space, including the Scarborough Bluffs, an escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario: “There’s a sense of community. Downtown Toronto I could never live in because it’s so noisy. There’s a lot going on and when you need a little bit of quiet, there’s still background noise, but here you can get away. Literally. There’s different pockets of parks everywhere.”

What issues get covered the most by media in Scarborough?

Diriye Hassan, 26, has lived in Scarborough for his entire life.

Diriye Hassan has spent his whole life seeing media coverage of Scarborough that doesn’t match his lived experience. “You see Scarborough on the Toronto TV shows or news shows, generally, when something has gone wrong … despite how much incredible stuff is happening,” he says.

“Usually, Scarborough comes up when it’s a safety incident or something horrible has happened,” Diriye adds. “Part of the issue with Scarborough [is] it’s so massive that … [the media] doesn’t contextualize issues for where they happened. If something happens at Steeles and Victoria Park or it happened, let’s say, at Morningside and Ellesmere, they’re nowhere near each other, but [the media] covers the same very small concentrated area.”

What issues are your friends and family most concerned about about right now?

Fateha Hossain, 21, is a student at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. She also works for the City of Toronto’s planning department and research team.

Fateha Hossain loves living in Scarborough, but says there are aspects of life in the community that make it challenging, including “having to grapple with the general [perception] of Scarborough that’s very negative.”

She adds that she’s “constantly” having to defend her hometown: “It’s just so ingrained in people’s heads about what Scarborough is and what it isn’t.”

These negative ideas, Fateha feels, lead to a lack of investment in local jobs and infrastructure. “Outside of UT Scarborough and maybe a few other institutions, all of the jobs are downtown. It’s very clear that there isn’t very much investment happening or there isn’t very much growth happening in Scarborough,” she explains. “I find that I really personally struggle with that because, for example, I’m having to commute an hour and a half to go work.”

Help us report on the GTA

Whether you live in Scarborough, the three other communities we’re covering or elsewhere in the GTA, we’d love to hear from you. Fill out this survey or reach us at gta@thediscourse.ca to share your thoughts on what local stories we should covert. Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the field, and for information on upcoming Discourse pop-up events across Toronto.

Hidden gem

Scarborough Arts offers programming for seniors, kids and emerging local artists.

Founded in 1978, Scarborough Arts is the only nonprofit art gallery serving the local community, according to its website. At the time, it was created to address the lack of dedicated venues for artistic, cultural and community work in Scarborough. Today, it offers gallery space for local artists and programming, including youth mentorship opportunities, writing and storytelling workshops for seniors, an arts residency program and more.

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