"The crime-ridden city of Prince George."
That's how the CBS newsmagazine show 48 Hours introduced its viewers to this city Saturday night during its hour-long feature of the so-called Highway of Tears and the murder of area women over the last 40-plus year.
No context, no explanation, nothing.
Just a label.
That description also explains some of the sketchy reporting.
The program featured a summary of everything everyone following the case through coverage in this newspaper and other B.C. media already knew while ignoring some things that didn't fit the narrative.
In their story, Highway 16 is the only roadway that defines the Highway of Tears so when the 48 Hours story got to the Bobby Jack Fowler development, it glossed over the fact that the one confirmed Fowler victim and the two other women he may have killed in the same time period, were killed on Highway 97 between here and Kamloops. To then ask viewers to talk to the reporter through social media and share details about the case when the program couldn't even bother to line up the facts seems a little two-faced.
Not only has the link with Fribjon Bjornson and Madison Scott been completely discredited by investigators (so why bring it up on the show except to insinuate Vanderhoof residents think the cops are wrong about that with no evidence to back up that assertion?), 48 Hours neglected to mention last month's development in the Bjornson case. A story making the rounds in Fort St. James is that Bjornson, with several thousand dollars of cash in his pocket after cashing a paycheque, gave someone a ride to a house party on the Nak'azdli reserve, where he was attacked, killed and dismembered. His body parts were dumped into Stuart Lake, the story goes, but somebody left Bjorn's head in the house, which police searched after finding Bjornson's truck nearby.
To be fair, the program did feature heartfelt interviews with the parents of Maddy Scott and the father of Loren Dawn Leslie, 15, one of the alleged victims of Cody Legebokoff. Except for the cheap shot about the link between Bjornson and Scott, RCMP investigators were portrayed as smart, diligent and passionate. Through some breathtaking aerials shots and some clever camera work, the region looked gorgeous but also somewhat sinister, a land of endless opportunity for killers looking to seize vulnerable women and dump their bodies where they would be unlikely to ever be found.
Any reporting on the Highway of Tears case is good reporting in that it keeps the dangers of hitchhiking in Northern B.C. on the top of everyone's mind and the show's emphasis on the Madison Scott case in the first third of the program could maybe trigger someone's memory, sparking a break in the case, but glossing over some of the complexities and uncertainties of the case isn't exactly helpful.
While it's not the job of 48 Hours (or Dateline NBC, which has also had a producer sniffing around for a feature story) to promote Prince George, summing up Prince George as crime ridden added nothing to the Highway of Tears story. It was nothing more than a ridiculous back-handed slur, suggesting this is a dangerous part of the world to live and raise a family.
If it takes that kind of nonsense to help find Madison Scott or solve the disappearances and murders of some of the other women, we'll take the "crime-ridden" tag all day long.
Doesn't mean we have to like it.