Archive for the ‘Race’ Category


Lynching story fails to identify race of all involved

If we don’t know our history, it is said, we are doomed to repeat it.

The New York Times published a story Feb. 10 that revealed some of the ugly history of the United States of America. A new report documents the lynchings of 4,000 human beings, black people tortured and killed by mobs of white people in 12 Southern U.S. states.

These African-American citizens were attacked and murdered for minor offenses or for doing nothing at all. Some of the killings took place less than a century ago. The Times’ story noted that the organization that compiled the report, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, plans to erect markers and memorials at the sites of these horrific injustices.

What the Times story did not note was the race of the perpetrators. Vox, and later, Jezebel, called out the nation’s leading newspaper for failing to use the word “white” in its story, as if white, Caucasian people are not a race.

“This sort of oversight is in no way something that only happens in The New York Times or that only happens in the media,” wrote Jenée Desmond-Harris for Vox. “But this is the most recent example of the clunky awkwardness that accompanies discussions about the ways white supremacy shaped our nation’s history.”

Desmond-Harris’ point draws out a common blind spot in our reporting on race. Because media workers overwhelmingly are white, we tend to consider white, Anglo people as the norm, and not as a race, which surely we are.

When we point out that innocent black people were killed by mobs who watched and taunted and don’t identify the race of the people who did the killing, we diminish our own role in the oppression. (Full disclosure: I am white).

A theory called incognizant racism asserts that whites often overlook the concerns and interests of non-white people in favor of their own values and advantages in society. In newsrooms, this incognizant racism can help to uphold the status quo, which continues to favor whites.

If journalists are to be the watchdogs of society, who uphold the truth, it is important that we tell the whole truth. That includes pointing out the role of white people in the sometimes horrific racial history of our nation.

Everbach_head shotTracy Everbach is associate professor of journalism in the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

A Tribute to Dori Maynard

Dori Maynard, a journalist and champion for diversity in media died this week, and journalists across the country are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a woman who devoted her life to ensuring all voices were heard.

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Maynard was the president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, named after her father, Robert C. Maynard, who was former publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, Tribune co-publisher, were the first African Americans to own a major metropolitan daily in the United States.

Journalism seemed to be in her blood. On her mother Liz Rosen’s side of the family, Maynard’s grandfather, Edward Patrick Flynn, was executive editor of the New York Post. Beyond telling stories, Maynard advocated better stories be told by reaching out to underserved communities. She pushed for journalists to make stronger efforts to include more diverse voices in their news coverage.

Maynard was also actively involved in the Society of Professional Journalists, and served on the board for the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Her friends and colleagues throughout SPJ and SDX are deeply saddened by her death.

“This news comes as a complete shock. How can Dori be gone? What a loss for our profession,” said SDX President Robert Leger.

“She accomplished a lot in a too-short lifetime. I admired her and was proud to serve with her on the SDX board,” said Irwin Gratz, former SPJ President and SDX board Vice President.

“Dori was one of those people who showed up and by showing up made a difference. When I thought she might be too busy, or too involved, or too far away to attend a Foundation board meeting, Dori showed up. I will remember Dori for her passion for diversity in our profession, for her diligence in making a difference, for her advocacy as a human being,” said Steve Geimann, also a former SPJ President and current SDX board member.

George Daniels, Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, met Dori when he was a SPJ Diversity Fellow. Later while serving as the SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman he would invite Dori to be part of the many discussions that came before the committee.

“Though she was based in California, it was nothing for her to get on a plane and fly all the way across the country to engage in an important diversity-related meeting and she gave tirelessly to the efforts to ensure that our media outlets were true to their pledges to make their newsroom staff look like the communities that are becoming more and more diverse,” Daniels said.

Longtime friend Sally Lehrman, a SDX board member, former SPJ Board Member and SPJ Diversity committee member and former chair, admired Dori’s commitment to change.

“Dori’s warmth and passion for her work blended so beautifully in a woman who knew how to talk straight and press for change — and at the same time, listen carefully and thoughtfully to others who had a completely different perspective. She had such a big heart,” Lehrman said.

Rebecca Tallent, journalism professor and SPJ Diversity committee member says Dori left quite an impression on her.

“Dori taught me what it meant to really be tenacious, and how to use that trait in the difficult art of diversity,” Tallent said.

“Whenever I would see her, I would mentally paraphrase the line from the end of the trial in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Stand up children, a great person is passing by,” Tallent said, ”Lord Almighty – how that woman will be missed.”

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Tension in America

As race relations continue to be strained from the recent attention on Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot a young African American man, Michael Brown; or the journey of Central American children rushing to cross the United States border, we as journalists are covering these stories.

Emotions run high when people hear or read the news on these matters of racial strife or immigration. It reminds me of the daunting responsibility we have as journalists to tell these stories, and to always remember the power of our words and images.

It is with great pride to see journalism organizations like SPJ get involved when it becomes a challenge with law enforcement to cover stories such as the Ferguson protests. When events like the unrest in Ferguson erupt, we are out there on the front lines, with our notepads, mics and cameras. It is tough to be in the middle of chaotic incidents, but we are there, trying to get the story for our communities.

Let us stick with these stories, report the aftermath, the healing, and the efforts to solve the chaotic situations. May we learn something and pass these lessons on to others.

As the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Nashville gets underway this week, there are so many opportunities to grow and reflect on the issues before us.

A panel titled “Lessons from Ferguson” will explore the conflicts and challenges journalists faced in Missouri.
We can also learn about the dangers our fellow journalists are facing covering stories in Mexico.
And, the panel ‘Race Coverage: 50 years of change’, will explore how far journalism has come in reporting on race, and how far it still has to go.

Finally, there is also a panel looking at issues of states requiring IDs to vote, and states issuing drivers licenses to undocumented residents.

There is so much happening across our country, and so much to learn as we share these stories with the masses. I’m looking forward to the EIJ conference, because the knowledge we will be able to gain, will only make our news coverage better.

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is SPJ Diversity Chair, and a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV Las Vegas, NV

 

 

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Donald Sterling: Not Just an Angel vs. Devil Story

There’s a lot that can be said of the saga involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While the subject is a target-rich environment for news articles on diversity, sometimes we can get so homed in on the bad guy/good guy aspect that we miss other credible angles.

I attended a reporting on race workshop at the Poynter Institute in 2000 run by Keith Woods, who is now the vice president for diversity in news and operations at National Public Radio. One of the numerous takeaways I remember was that we as reporters often get locked into what he called “angel vs. devil” scenarios when reporting on race.

Reach for Complexity
The person making the perceived racial comment or taking the action is seen as evil, thus everything that person does or has done is viewed through that lens. Likewise, the victim of the perceived racial slight is almost always viewed more sympathetically, and is given a more supportive treatment. Woods tried to get us to step away from that paradigm and look at people involved in racial conflicts in all of their complexities.

That does not mean that Donald Sterling is not worthy of the critical reporting he has received. But reporters should not shy away from the complexities of the story. How does person who through his own words has such a negative view of African-Americans hire such a successful and strong-willed black coach as Doc Rivers? Or, on a more personal level, date a multiracial woman like V. Stiviano?

Likewise, how do we as reporters not critically look at Stiviano’s motives in recording Sterling?

Fresh angles on mental health, ethics

And how does our assessment of Sterling’s comments change if the “mentally incompetent” label sticks?

The initial reporting on the Sterling case brought up his contributions to the local branch of the NAACP and how the group had planned to give him a lifetime achievement award. I had a debate with other journalists on Facebook about this. Some believed the NAACP should never have taken money from Sterling. Others said fundraising is so difficult, especially for African-American and civil rights organizations, that Sterling’s generosity could be considered a “sin tax” and that the NAACP should have gladly accepted it.

That’s just one example of numerous angles that can be mined from the Sterling saga without getting into the “he said, she said” melodrama of the original story. At times we get so caught up in the tawdry details of the “angels vs. devils” that we miss other worthy topics.


Clyde Hughes is a freelance journalist based in Lafayette, Indiana, who wrote many years for the Toledo Blade. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites around the country and taught courses on covering minorities in the media and media ethics as an adjunct professor.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Four ways to build a diverse panel, and why it matters

If you’ve ever walked into a room and been “the only one,” whether it involved race, gender or another factor, you know the feeling of exclusion that lack of representation creates.

The recent Online News Association conference in Atlanta featured a panel on “Disrupt Diversity,” which focused on journalism strategies to find sources outside comfort zones.

The panelists included one white male, Steve Buttry of Digital First Media, one black woman, Dori Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and one white woman, Jessica Valenti, columnist for The Nation. This is an example of a diverse panel whose speakers can offer a variety of perspectives. In fact, ONA made a particular effort this year to recruit a mix of panelists, with half of them women and 30 percent people of color.

Too many times panels and presentations feature people who come from similar backgrounds and have similar points of view. In fact, Rebecca Rosen wrote about this earlier this year in The Atlantic, calling on men who find themselves on all-male panels to refuse to serve. She was writing about technology and science, but journalism also is applicable.

Newsrooms continue to lack diversity, as shown by the American Society of News Editors’ annual census. Only 12.37 percent of newsroom staffs are non-white and only one-third of employees are female.

Finding people who represent a range of viewpoints is a helpful rule not only for journalism practice, but also for presentations. Whether we consider race, gender, disability, or any other difference, we must think about who is representing our organizations. Excluding part of the audience not only defies ethical principles, but it also is not good for business.

The excuses “we can’t find qualified minorities” and “we can’t find qualified women” often mean that people are not searching outside their own social and work circles.

Here are some ways to find a variety of speakers and sources:

  1. SPJ’s own Rainbow Diversity Sourcebook: http://www.spj.org/divsourcebook.asp
  2. The Women’s Media Center’s She Source: http://www.shesource.org/
  3. The CIIJ at San Francisco State University features links to several diverse journalism organizations: http://www.ciij.org/resources
  4. Many universities, including journalism schools, list professors and their areas of expertise on their websites, such as this one from Columbia Journalism School: http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/page/532-faculty-experts/

Please add your own links to diverse sources of information as comments to this post.

 

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Ruben Salazar: Champion of Hispanic civil rights

A national journalism conference in Anaheim, Calif., last month provided an opportunity to learn about the Civil Rights Movement from the Hispanic perspective after a week of reminders of the famous Martin Luther King Jr. “dream” speech.

The Excellence in Journalism 2013 conference was sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, of which I am a past national president; Radio Television Digital News Association; and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

A preview was shown of “Latino Americans,” promoted as the first major documentary series for TV to chronicle the history and experiences of Latinos in the U.S. It will air on PBS on Sept. 17.  Among those discussing the documentary afterward was Juan Gonzalez, author of a book, “News For All The People,” New York Daily News columnist and co-host of a syndicated TV and radio show, “Democracy Now!”

I met Gonzalez later at a book signing and mentioned I was the last editor of the El Paso Herald-Post in Texas in the mid-‘90s. During my time there, I became very interested in immigration issues since the community was 75 percent Hispanic and borders Juarez, Mexico.

Courtesy Special Collections UCLA/From Book Ruben Salazar/Border Correspondent

Courtesy Special Collections UCLA/From Book Ruben Salazar/Border Correspondent

Gonzalez took his book and pointed me to what he had written about Ruben Salazar, who began his reporting career with the Herald-Post in the 1950s and then moved on to the Los Angeles Times. He later went to KMEX, a Los Angeles Spanish-language TV station.

Sadly, he was killed at age 42 during a Vietnam War protest by young Chicanos. More than 25,000 participants converged in Laguna Park in east Los Angeles and a riot ensued after a minor disturbance led police to arrest a keynote speaker, Gonzalez writes. Salazar was killed by a sheriff’s deputy in a bar following the riot where he and a camera crew had gone for refuge. The circumstances surrounding his death remain in dispute.

Salazar was killed on Aug. 29, 1970, which was 43 years ago. At the time, he was the most influential Latino journalist of his era.

On the recent 50th anniversary of the speech by King at the Washington Mall, throngs gathered on that spot to hear President Barack Obama pay tribute.

Not nearly as many remembered Salazar, but Raul A. Reyes, a columnist for USA Today, did.

“Salazar deserves to be remembered for his crusade against social injustice, and because he devoted his life to empowering his community,” Reyes wrote.

Salazar’s legacy includes the formation of the California Chicano News Media Association, which led to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor in 2008.

(Courtesy of Knoxville Sentinel/previously published)

“Latinos Americans” premieres on PBS September 17th on PBS at 8pm Eastern.

Georgiana Vines is retired News Sentinel associate editor, and member of the SPJ Diversity Committee.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

“Fruitvale Station”: Watch, Absorb and Learn

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, public radio journalist Cheryl Devall comments on “Fruitvale Station,” a film that offers journalists much to contemplate.

It took loFruitvale_Station_posterng enough, but I finally did it. My criteria for seeing “Fruitvale Station” were pretty specific, so I didn’t rush out the weekend it opened.

I wanted to enter and leave the theater in broad daylight  – a late night screening would inch too close to bedtime and nightmares. No spoiler alert needed here: The film begins with mobile phone footage of the true nightmare, the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III at an Oakland, Calif., BART station by a transit cop. The rest of the events early on New Year’s Day 2009 unfold in flashbacks. These help to illuminate the human beings beyond the headlines and protests.

I didn’t want to go to the show hungry. This is not a popcorn movie. Truth is, I didn’t expect my mouth to water as the people in the movie dish up seafood gumbo the way my family also does on holidays.

The laughs, I wasn’t expecting. So much of the banter between Oscar and the people in his circle is just plain funny. So many of the details are gut-level familiar. Shot on location in Oakland, the independent film conveys the texture of African American and Latino neighborhoods everywhere – the street corners crammed with fast-food joints and check-cashing outlets, the modest houses with trim lawns on the outside and well-worn recliners on the inside, the mismatched paint on the walls of low-rent apartments.

“Fruitvale Station,” a Sundance Festival favorite, brought to mind another deliberately paced slice of life from an earlier era, “Nothing But A Man.”

In that low-budget feature from1964, the protagonist wanders from a menial job on a railroad work crew through a succession of situations and relationships trying to establish his place in the world. Neither film offers direct comment on the larger national context – the civil rights revolution in one case, the dawn of the Obama era in the other – yet each drives home its points in powerfully understated ways.

That’s why I wanted to see the newer movie in my own neighborhood, at the theater formerly known as the Magic Johnson multiplex.

Not only because it’s within walking distance from my place. Every show in this theater happens in Sensurround. Audiences talk back to the screen, and during “Fruitvale Station” they weighed in with knowing commentary from beginning to end. Especially the end. Sobs and catcalls punctuated the epilogue text, and just before the credits rolled, somebody proclaimed, “This ain’t through.”

True dat.

The author is a veteran public radio journalist who lives in Los Angeles.

Resources for further exploration:

Racial Profiling Data

Implicit Bias and Law Enforcement

Study on Racial Bias in the Decision to Shoot

Parents Advise Children on “Being Young, Black and Safe”

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Zimmerman Trial Activism: A Political Reporter Offers Coverage Tips

IMG_5923

Community leaders call for a change in Florida’s self-defense laws as they join in prayer at the state Capitol.

A lot has been said and written about race in the jury trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted on all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African American youth.

The Department of Justice has announced it will look into the case, which could lead to criminal civil rights charges. Zimmerman may also face civil lawsuits from Martin’s family.

Some journalists criticize what they see as a media frenzy and a bias against Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic. On the other hand, many civil rights activists feel an injustice was carried out by the six-woman jury that acquitted Zimmerman. Zimmerman and his legal team have said they plan to push a lawsuit against NBC over the selective editing of Zimmerman’s call to police.

Some suggestions to advance your own reporting on the topic:

  • One of the many stories that journalists can follow is the “stand your ground” law in your state if the legislature has approved it. What is the definition of self-defense and the limits of community-watch programs? Take a look at the states that have them, based on a report in the Atlantic.
  • What is your state’s legislative black caucus doing? The Tennessee Black Caucus on Wednesday, for instance, said it would look at laws, rules, regulations concerning neighborhood watch programs, how they are structured and operate for safety of citizens and the community as a whole. The National Black Caucus of State Legislators on Sunday released a state of support for the Martin family and re-iterated its opposition to “stand your ground” laws across the country. The organization earlier was on record to reform or repeal the laws. It also supports the review and investigation by the Justice Department.

    RepWilliams

    Rep. Alan B. Williams speaks at a meeting convened by the Florida NAACP to discuss support of the student sit-in at the Capitol.

  • Check what’s going on in your local NAACP, United Church of Christ, National Organization for Women or other organizations promoting justice. How are they preparing for Rev. Al Sharpton’s Aug. 24 March on Washington?
  • What actions are local organizers taking to pressure the state legislature, influence Florida’s legislature, or press for federal action? How are they responding to the Tallahassee Dream Defenders’ sit-in at the Florida State Capitol?
  • Here is analysis of Florida’s history. What is your state’s history of race relations?

Here are some commentaries to get you thinking about more ideas:

One blogger doesn’t believe the Justice Department action is needed.

Cheryl Contee writes on forgiveness.

Moyers & Company ran this piece on gavel to gavel coverage.

Former national SPJ president Kevin Smith feels journalists need to continue to be objective as developments unfold. Here’s what he wrote on Facebook: “Journalists need to cool their jets on the Zimmerman coverage. Regardless of the verdict, you have a responsibility to fair and accurate coverage that is void of your personal views.”

There’s also commentary in ethnic media.

Keep the conversation flowing with civility.

Georgiana Vines is retired associate editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and an active member of the SPJ Diversity Committee.

Photos by Sally Lehrman.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

UNITY 12 audience says online news must add color, offers structural remedies

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

The train has left the station – and the good ol’ boy network is recreating itself. That was the call to action voiced by a disgruntled audience member at Digital & Diversity, a town hall at UNITY ‘12 on what diversity means in the digital age. Despite new tools, technologies, and business models, newsrooms are nearly as monochrome and male-dominated as a quarter century ago, participants said.

White male entrepreneurs seem to enjoy implicit favor in venture funding and grants, they observed. Worse yet, the high-speed, high-volume news environment is prone to offensive slips like ESPN’s infamous headline, “Chink in the Armor” — a reference to NBA star Jeremy Lin and an uneven stretch of games for his New York Knicks. Merely through inattention to inclusion, old hierarchies and habits have come right back.

The troubled digital space, though, still holds great opportunity for creating more honest, inclusive coverage, some speakers pointed out. Groups who feel shut out from the news can tell their own stories. Identity-specific news outlets and blogs such as Latina Lista, Native News Network and Pam’s House Blend can quickly hold other journalists accountable, improving the quality of the context we all offer. Partnerships across race, gender and sexual orientation bring stronger, more interesting ideas into everyone’s content.

There’s still time to reshape the news, some speakers proposed, by weaving inclusion right into the structure of news gathering and delivery. Audience members identified six key areas for attention:

• Build inclusive coverage into journalism programs from introductory courses on up.
• Ensure that journalism education and internships are available across the demographic spectrum, through grants and fair application processes.
• Press funders and venture capitalists to reinvent applications and decision-making processes so that entrepreneurs from all backgrounds get an equal chance.
• Encourage other types of support for journalists of color, LGBT entrepreneurs and women to own their own news outlets.
• Obtain a commitment by existing news outlets – whether online only or legacy – to an inclusive management and staff, and track their progress.
• Insist on ethical coverage that pays attention to inclusivity and fairness, and ask hard questions about representation and accuracy.

Focus on a broken system, the audience insisted, not piecemeal problem-solving. About 100 attendees raised concerns and proposed solutions at the session, which was opened by Bill Celis, associate director and associate professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. I helped guide the conversation with Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, Calif., and Evelyn Hsu, the Maynard Institute’s senior director of programs and operations.

Resources:
UNITY/McCormick Foundation Electronic Clearinghouse for News Diversity
ASNE Newsroom Census (See online category)
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Digital Journalism Ethics Resources
The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
Santa Clara University Journalism Program
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code

 

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Trayvon Martin Shooting Death: Evaluating and Improving Crime Reporting

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

Once again we find ourselves caught short. Why did it take news media across the country a couple of weeks to notice that a black teenager had been shot by a vigilante in a gated community? In our sometimes clumsy efforts to catch up (see NBC’s hideous editing error), some accuse the media of hyping the racial element.

That’s absurd, and here’s why. When three-quarters of black people surveyed consider racial bias a factor in the killing and in the non-arrest of the shooter, you’d better believe race is important to this story. It’s no secret that black parents fear for their children, knowing that suspicion routinely follows young males with black skin, wherever they are.  In a study of unconscious racial reactions, experimental psychologists found people of all backgrounds more likely to “see” a weapon in a black person’s hand when it’s actually a harmless object like a can of soda.

Distressingly, our own work is part of the reason why.  Decades ago, communication theorist George Gerbner first described the “Mean World Syndrome.” In his studies, he discovered that people exposed to heavy doses of violence on television developed an overblown sense of danger and fear about the world around them. Despite our best intentions, we’re part of that picture.

In the crime stories so favored by the local news, multiple studies have found that race plays a predictable but inaccurate role. White people disproportionately play the victim. People with darker skin disproportionately flash on the screen as suspects. News audiences have become so conditioned that even when no suspect is shown at all, viewers assume one — and he is black.

In one influential study, Frank Gilliam of UCLA and Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University altered the suspect’s race in crime news clips that they showed to about 2,300 participants. In the test group whose clip included no suspect at all, 44 percent recalled seeing a black perpetrator. Regular news watching also increased audiences’ support for punitive remedies to crime.

Separately, researcher Travis Dixon, now also at UCLA, found that African Americans are consistently overrepresented as perpetrators in local crime news. Not surprisingly, he also found that regular crime news watchers tended to perceive black people as violent.

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

In this moment, it’s important for the news media to step up to our responsibility to cover and spur conversation about America’s racial climate. Let’s also use this moment to consider hard questions about how we help to create it.

Digging Deeper into a Story

Some things you can do, based on experimental psychology research and other sources:

  • Avoid snap judgments in your reporting; that’s when reactive biases are most likely to emerge.
  • Form anti-bias strategies, like consciously pursuing stories about young African American men who are heroes or protectors of safety.
  • Evaluate crime stories by the level of community impact, and place them in social context of root causes and potential solutions.
  • Cross-check victim/perpetrator ratios by race within your own news reports. Do they reflect actual police statistics?
  • Check your sources. Are you including perspectives across the fault lines of race, gender and age? Who is the affected community? Is there more than one?

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ