Why is Toronto Media Assigning Blame in a Fatal Scarborough Collision to a Rear-Ended TTC Bus?
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Why is Toronto Media Assigning Blame in a Fatal Scarborough Collision to a Rear-Ended TTC Bus?

Semantics matter.

At 6:30 this morning, Toronto Police alerted the public that a car crashed into a TTC bus at Finch and Warden, in Scarborough. One man died on scene, and at least two others in the car have been injured in the crash. Though an investigation is still ongoing, police say it appears the car drove into the back of the bus.

It’s not an unusual scene in Toronto, and media reports on the incident should have been straightforward. But transit enthusiasts on Twitter noticed something peculiar about the media’s handling of the story: in most reports, publications were assigning agency to the TTC bus.

Though the driver of the car in this instance appeared to have rear-ended the bus, several headlines suggested an alternative narrative, with wording suggesting that the TTC vehicle was somehow involved—or worse, to blame—for the collision.

The Toronto Star, City News, and Report 24 Canada are among outlets scrutinized for their headlines on the story. (The Star later changed its headline, though no correction or editor’s note accompanied the change.)

The story brings to attention the need for consistent standards and practices when it comes to reporting on road safety and collisions. Journalists and editors all have a responsibility to use the most accurate language when reporting. Mistakes happen, of course, but they should be corrected and appended.

We’re not free of criticism here at Torontoist. Last week, we referred to a collision, in which a taxi driver veered into a cyclist on Bay Street, as an “accident,” assigning blame to neither the motorist nor the bicyclist and unintentionally skewing the narrative. While we promptly corrected the story, we came under scrutiny for the error, and rightfully so.

Language and accuracy have been brought to the fore, both by the public and by journalistic institutions. The Associated Press advises journalists to use “crash” in favour of “accident,” and encourages them to keep in mind driver responsibility. The “crash, not accident” movement has pushed for similar changes.

Semantics matter, and Toronto’s media can do better.

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