Framing Analysis of the Daily Hive's Coverage of August 9th DTES Decampment

From UBC Wiki

Within the Oppenheimer division of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the intersection of East Hastings and Main is well-known for its disproportionate number of homeless populations, with one of its encampments stretching along East Hastings St. between Carrall and Main streets.[1][2]

This encampment along East Hastings, commonly referred to as ‘Tent City’[1][3][4], has been growing steadily for a number of years.[5][4] Current counts show that roughly 200 people are at the East Hastings encampment each day.[6][7][8]

The particular encampment at the intersection of East and West Hastings & Main has been noted as a fire hazard, due to restricting firefighting resources and access, and the use of propane and open flame in the encampment.[9] On July 25th, 2022, Vancouver’s Fire Chief Karen Fry approved an order that allowed for the forceful removal of structures from the streets.[9][10]

On August 9th, 2022, Vancouver Police Department moved into the DTES and began clearing the structures as outlined by the order.[11][12] Around 3 p.m., police responded to a call made by the security guards at Carnegie Centre of a man throwing computers and acting erratically.[13] The altercation led to a clash between protestors and law enforcement.[11][13]

Vancouver Police Department stated that several officers were assaulted, which led to multiple arrests.[12] However, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users stated that the police instigated a police riot with brutal use of violence on bystanders.[14]

The decampment was halted after violence erupted on August 9th, with no announcement of when it would resume.[15][16]


Map of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside divided into its sub-neighbourhoods. (Source: DTES Vancouver Business Directory)


The Downtown Eastside is located on the lands of Coast Salish peoples that were once the hunting grounds of the Stó:Lo First Nations prior to European settlement.[17][18] The Downtown Eastside is made up of five distinct areas: Chinatown, Gastown, Victory Square, Strathcona, and Oppenheimer, plus a park and industrial area.[2]

History of the Downtown Eastside

The rapid economic growth post-Industrial Revolution in Europe and the subsequent increase in population led to a lack of job opportunities and overcrowding. As Europe struggled to accommodate the rapid changes, many looked to the Americas for a chance at economic success, leading to The Great Migration.[19][20] Official British and U.S. encouragement for emigration to Canada came at an opportune time as its economy struggled to flourish, and led to a massive influx of immigrants throughout the 19th-century.[21] As the population grew in the East, the demand for agricultural products led immigrants westbound.[21] Given that Vancouver was a transportation hub of the West, resource labourers settled in the DTES on the waterfront of the Burrard Inlet.[22] Due to drinking limitations on mill properties on which many lived, the demand for saloons and brothels rapidly grew in the DTES.[17][22]

In 1913, with the U.S. stock market crash, the economy and housing market of Vancouver declined.[23] As the DTES became increasingly populated by unemployed and blue-collar workers, the neighbourhood came to be known as ‘Skid Row’.[24][17] The Great Depression and the subsequent lack of affordable housing in other parts of Vancouver continued to cause the congregation of low-income individuals in the DTES.[22] In addition, many mentally ill found refuge in the DTES community when they were left stranded by the ill-informed deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients starting in the 1960s.[25][26]

In 1986, the gentrification movement in the DTES began with Expo 86, which led to the eviction of 800-1,000 low-income residents from their homes.[27][28][29]

Then, in 1997, a public health emergency was declared following an HIV epidemic and deaths by illicit drugs.[30][31] Since then, the Downtown Eastside has seen an increasing proportion of illicit drug-related deaths.[30][32]

Present-Day Downtown Eastside

As of 2020, the DTES currently makes up 52% of Vancouver’s homeless population.[33]

Addiction, mental illness, medical conditions, and physical and mental disabilities are among the main causes of homelessness in Metro Vancouver.[33][34]

Research Methods

In this section, we will briefly disclose the reasoning for our target selection and discuss the significance of the elements of analysis we have chosen.


Outlet Selection

The Daily Hive is a Vancouver-based online newspaper written for an urban readership.[35] Since its conception, The Daily Hive (formerly VanCity Buzz) has focused on producing “hyperlocal”[35] digital content to help Vancouver readers better understand their city.[35] It eventually became one of Western Canada’s leading online-only publications and garners 14 million page views per month and over 4 million unique page visitors per month.[36][37]

Once we narrowed down the timeframe (August 9 to August 14, 2022), we chose to analyze Daily Hive’s coverage of the Downtown Eastside decampment because it had the most number of articles pertaining to the incident among other Vancouver-specific outlets we examined.  Furthermore, its focus on hyper-local content is likely to attract region-specific audience who find their articles to be personally relevant.[38][39] The Daily Hive operates with eight channels: DH News, Dished, Listed, Urbanized, Venture, Offside, Curated, and Mapped, catering to a wide range of audiences.[40]

Article Selection

For optimized relevance, we decided to look at articles from August 9 to August 14, 2022. Within that time frame, the Daily Hive had published five articles that referenced the DTES area.

Among them, four were directly related to the decampment that took place on August 9:

Mode of Analysis

Framing Analysis

In journalism, frames are the written, spoken, or visual modalities used to simplify and contextualize a topic within articles.[41] They are a set of ideas that interpret, define and give meaning to sociocultural phenomena.[42] For example, frames can define a problem (state what a person or group is doing as well as assess its costs and/or benefits determined by shared cultural values), diagnose causes (determine who or what is creating an issue), make moral judgements (judge whether something is good, bad, or neutral), and suggest remedies (explain how to help solve the problem, and/or predict what the effects of a solution might be).[43] Often, the framing of media texts are influenced by institutional belief systems.[43]

A framing analysis, then, identifies the editorial decisions about devices used to frame reality, and assesses how these methods define the topic of discussion for readers.[44][45] Two core elements of framing are analyzed in this page: headlines and featured images. By highlighting (or neglecting) certain views and encouraging micro- or macro-interpretations, subtleties in headlines and featured images may shape the lens through which readers approach the rest of the article.[46][47] Therefore, these elements can be powerful tools for influencing public perception.

Elements of Analysis


We decided to analyze headlines because they are the readers' first points of contact with an article, thus providing important context.[48] To gain as much information with as little cognitive effort as possible, it has been shown that readers spend more time skimming through headlines than actually reading articles.[49] Therefore, they have significant influence over what readers choose to focus on within articles.[46][47]

Featured Images

Headlines are often accompanied by images that are meant to represent the respective stories, called ‘featured images’. These images are essential to framing – when candid, they are believed to more accurately depict reality than the texts that follow, and can influence readers’ perception of the importance of the depicted reality.[50][51] Therefore, featured images can convey moral judgements and define problems.[50]

Table of Units of Analysis

Date (2022) Headline Featured Image
August 9th Violence erupts between police and large crowd in Downtown Eastside
Traffic camera footage showing an orderly line of Vancouver Police officers
August 9th Vancouver to begin removal of "structures" in the Downtown Eastside
Image of Carrall Street in Vancouver, British Columbia
August 11th "It's abominable": Witness claims police were assaulting people in Downtown Eastside
August 12th Woman charged after officer “struck in the head” during Downtown Eastside melee
Image of a Vancouver Police Department cruiser with flashing lights

Framing Analysis

Headline Analysis

There was a consistency in the framing methods the four headlines employed; they utilized episodic, issue-specific, and emphasizing frames. Episodic framing is restrictive due to reducing systemic phenomena to single events. However, it is understandable that DailyHive would resort to this framing method, given the fact that all four articles were hard news stories and thus restricted to reporting only on the decampment event, rather than a general, abstract context.[52] The same can be said of DailyHive’s use of issue-specific framing in all four articles. Issue-specific frames are the unique ways outlets contextualize a particular topic – in the case of these stories, we see issue-specific frames that range from contextualizing the topic in terms of the fire order, to the violence perpetrated from either the police or the DTES protestors.[53]

We found DailyHive’s use of emphasis framing to be not only the most influential but also the most proliferative for analysis, due to its variation across articles. Outlets tend to selectively emphasize aspects and choose their language framing differently; emphasis framing allows them to implicitly demonstrate their biases and affect the readers’ understanding and opinions. Through this process, DailyHive encourages readers to interpret each story through the lens that they make most salient and available.

"It's abominable": Witness claims police were assaulting people in Downtown Eastside” does not conform to the protest paradigm – a media theory that delegitimizes protests relative to the authoritative structures they reject – by choosing not to place the assault within the context of a protest. In choosing to do so, the headline strengthens the mainstream discourse that police routinely use unjustified force against civilians. Furthermore, with provocative language (e.g., abominable, assault), the article alludes to the abuse of power by the police. In doing so, the headline is making a moral judgment about the disproportionate power dynamic.[54] At this point, DailyHive inserts affective words to reinforce this stance; “abominable”[55] (meaning extreme disgust and hatred) as quoted directly from a witness, and “assault”[56] (referring to a sudden, violent attack). By inserting “abominable” at the beginning of the headline, it is made salient to the readers, encouraging them to view the decampment as a hateful act.[54] The subsequent use of the word ‘assault’ reiterates the notion that the civilians were in a position of vulnerability. These linguistic selections advance an anti-authority interpretation by portraying the actions of the police in a negative light, and consequently evoking empathy for those assaulted.

DailyHive employs a similar framing method in “Woman charged after officer “struck in the head” during Downtown Eastside melee”. Although it also presents an assailant-victim relationship, unlike the previous headline it reverses the role of the civilian (now the assailant) and the police (the victim). By virtue of shifting the emphasis, this headline is less anti-authority. However, this is not to say that the headline takes a pro-authority stance. In fact, it avoids doing so with its use of scare quotes – punctuation marks that express skepticism or contempt about a word or a phrase.[57]As a consequence, the headline casts doubt onto the Vancouver Police Department’s retelling of the event.[58]

The article “Vancouver to begin removal of "structures" in the Downtown Eastside” also uses scare quotes to make a moral judgment. Although the official fire order outlined the removal of “any tarps, tents and other structures,” Daily Hive chose to isolate the word ‘structures’. By doing so, the headline condemns the City’s portrayal of the DTES as a collection of neutral ‘structures’ void of human elements and its wilful ignorance to the lived consequences of the decampment.

Another interesting framing method is the personification of Vancouver. This is a blame-shifting tactic used in politics that attributes a problem to an external source outside the public’s control, making it easier for them to bear its consequences.[59] In this fashion, this headline shifts the blame away from specific agents in its attempt to restore neutrality. This technique is also seen in “Violence erupts between police and large crowd in Downtown Eastside” as it chooses not to attribute the cause of the violence to either party involved. However, such an attempt is blunted by their use of the term, ‘large crowd’. ‘Crowd’ refers to “a large number of people gathered together in a disorganized or unruly way".[60] Through the use of the term, the headline insinuates that the police presence was a result of their occupational duty to maintain social order and contain chaos.

Featured Images Analysis

By drawing attention to particular actions and objects, all four images largely utilized emphasis framing[61] to further the intended messages of the headlines.

In the article “It's abominable": Witness claims police were assaulting people in Downtown Eastside,” the featured image is split in two: the left half depicts police standing in an orderly line, while the right half portrays four police officers crowded around one man being held in a headlock position by an officer. This visual demonstration of excessive police force against civilians furthers the message that the decampment resulted in authority figures – the police – using their power to overwhelm the vulnerable through physical abuse. By virtue of comparing the ‘orderly’ photo of the officers against this extreme use of force, this image demonstrates the disparity between police narratives (e.g., that they calmly and justifiably maintain social order) and the pre-existing political consciousness around police force use and abuse of the vulnerable in the DTES.[62][63][64][65]

In “Violence erupts between police and large crowd in Downtown Eastside”, the featured image also depicts an orderly group of police officers, in what can be presumed to be the Downtown Eastside. Since this image is clearly captured by a traffic cam, it compliments the headline’s attempt to restore neutrality –  as a traffic camera, it is not connected to the story, and thus may carry an assumed impartiality. The image also emphasizes the organized manner of the law enforcement, who are seen ensuring that the community is protected from disorder and violence. The emphasis of the police force’s composed vigilance conveys that they are not the perpetrators of the confrontation, complimenting the headline’s implication that police presence was due to occupational duty. Here, they are the ones who must control the comparatively disorganized and unruly crowd who are causing the conflict; they are fulfilling their duties as peace-keepers by ending the disorder.

In “Vancouver to begin removal of "structures" in the Downtown Eastside.”, the feature image is a nondescript photo of the intersection of Carrall St. and East Hastings. By depicting an innocuous road sign, this image – like the headline it accompanies – does not place blame on specific visual agents. However, this image still employs morality framing to emphasize the relationship between the City of Vancouver and the DTES residents. The featured image highlights Carrall St., which is well-known as a commercial hub and a site of the City of Vancouver’s social-housing attempts.[66][67][68] The historical Pennsylvania Hotel[69], captured in the photo, underwent a $1.3 million conversion into low-income housing, with 44 available room.[70][71] By visually contrasting protected structures like the Pennsylvania Hotel to the unprotected “structures” on the streets of the DTES, this image entrenches the moral judgement made in the headline: the City of Vancouver wilfully ignores the lived, negative consequences of their attempts at solving the housing crisis.

The feature image for “Woman charged after officer “struck in the head” during Downtown Eastside melee uses a nondescript photo of a police car with its emergency lights flashing. It avoids depicting visual signs of homelessness or imagery that refers to the decampment. As such, this photo shifts the focus of the issue-specific narrative to the police perspective - it does not allude to the existence of a possible vulnerable Other. Furthermore, when people see police cars with their lights flashing, the assumption is that a perpetrator – guilty or not – has committed a crime and the officer is present to handle the situation.[72][73] In this way, the featured image for this article emphasizes the idea that the perpetrator – the unnamed woman –  has done something objectively and morally wrong, and the police are protecting the public by persecuting the illegal actions of this citizen. As such this framing promotes a moral judgment of the police as the ‘good’ actors in this scenario, as they are fulfilling their obligations to maintain social order.

In Summary

In DailyHive’s headlines and featured images, we found a pattern of balancing police department PR and advocacy narratives coupled with intentional emphases (or de-emphases) of certain elements in their efforts to influence reader perception. In reporting sensitive issues involving marginalized populations – in this case, the decampment of the homeless in the DTES – it is the duty of journalists and outlets to minimize harm and maintain impartiality[74]; they are to provide a holistic coverage of an event that takes all competing discourses into consideration.


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