WINNIPEG -- Meth is a topic that has dominated the headlines in Winnipeg and Manitoba in recent times, and a panel Wednesday is looking at how the media portrays it.

Katharina Maier, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg and a moderator at the event, said the panel is part of an ongoing study by her and her colleague, Bronwyn Dodchuk-Land.

"We spanned a fairly comprehensive media analysis looking across different newspapers in Winnipeg, at how media talk about meth and people who use meth," said Maier.

She said they’ve also held focus groups with people who have used drugs on how they are represented in the media.

Maier knows the meth crisis has been a large talking point for media throughout the city.

"Media is not just about transmitting information, but it's about the construction of social problems," she said. "What media say and how they say it matters a lot in shaping social problems and shaping discourses."

She said the event will feature a variety of different people, from harm reduction workers and academics to reporters and producers, so they can have meaningful conversations about meth in the media, but also discuss how to "advance an inclusive and respectful and dignified and productive discourse in media about meth."

"The voices of those who use drugs, or have used drugs, or have had contact with the criminal justice system, don't figure as prominently in media," said Maier, adding those who have more power in society tend to be represented better.

The language of crisis

Maier said their studies have also looked at the use of the word crisis and what it can mean.

"When media in news stories refers to something as a crisis, what kind of message does that send?"

She added the word can represent fear and panic, but on the other hand, it can bring to light the opportunity to talk about an issue.

Maier pointed out, this isn't an event where it will be the community versus the media, but rather a chance for people to understand what goes into making decisions in a newsroom and for those in the media to understand what goes on in other groups in the city.

Maier hopes the panel can help create more of a discussion on how media can potentially think about changes in how it talks about people associated with meth and other drugs.

The event will be held on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at X-Cues Café and Lounge at 551 Sargent Ave.

Maier said it is open to the public and encourages people to come out and listen to the discussions.