As founder and editor of All Digitocracy, Tracie Powell keeps a close eye on media and its impact on diverse communities. Powell has not only reported and edited for more than a decade, she also has master’s degree in law and served as a legal clerk for the U.S.
Note: This remembrance, by longtime friend and fellow SPJ member Sally Lehrman, first appeared on the website of The Maynard Institute. Dori Maynard was a board member of SPJ’s associated Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and was named a Fellow of the Society in 2001.
Racism is a hard truth in American society. It is our inheritance, built into America’s history of slavery, lynching, and unequal treatment in law enforcement. And it is our present, through the unspoken, unacknowledged biases we may abhor but unconsciously still carry with us.
Stunned by the brutal massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine, journalists and citizens around the world mourned. Many proclaimed, “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity. The massive march Jan. 11 in Paris made the most powerful statement of all. Jews, Muslims, atheists and others across a spectrum of beliefs and politics walked together “to shout their love for liberty and tolerance,” as Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the Guardian.
Let’s face it: The moment news gatherers take on a story that turns on racial justice, most of them contend with a severe lack of trust. Americans are only half convinced that the news media are ever worth their confidence, according to survey data.
“Good enough” isn’t good enough if you are a data journalist. Even “accurate” isn’t good enough. When you’re working with data, it’s important to run it through a bias filter at every stage. That’s what three highly regarded investigative journalists insisted as we prepared for a panel on the ethics of working with data at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in June.
Red state, blue state. White, black. Old, young. Citizen, immigrant. Journalists and their audiences seem to live in a world of opposites, with not much information in between. Observing the dichotomies that dominated coverage of the government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act, immigration and countless other topics, I’m reminded of a classic essay by developmental biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling.
Brace yourself. Reports on women and people of color in the news tend to depress. But the latest compilation of data may coax you into a tiny bit of a smile. Investigative reporting, that high-status bastion of male dominance in the news business, is opening up, according to data in the Women’s Media Center’s The Status of Women in the Media 2013 report.
What’s the foundation of great reporting? Sure, smart questions and careful listening. But underpinning all but the rare, confrontational interview is one key ingredient: trust. That’s one reason journalists gravitate toward familiar faces. We develop our reliable, go-to sources and on a breaking story, quickly identify who is likely to be responsive and credible in the crowd.
Two frightening killers were on the loose, and the Sacramento Bee’s readers wanted to protect themselves. They wanted more than descriptions of the attackers’ clothing at the time of the murders. They wanted to know the criminals’ race. The Bee, they accused editors, had allowed outdated policies to endanger public safety.
September 27th, 2007 • Quill Archives
Great resources abound to diversify election coverage
We have already debated Barack Obama’s blackness and discussed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s cleavage. No question: Journalists could apply a far more sophisticated lens to this historic moment, when a black American, a Hispanic and a woman vie with other candidates for our country’s top job.
Sometimes newsrooms seem awfully compartmentalized. You’ve got the City Hall crew, various metro beats, maybe a “communities” or demographics reporter, the arts team, business, sports and, often hidden away in a room piled high with documents, the investigative team. They often only focus on their own special world.
Sometimes diversity is the last thing on teachers’ minds. Sure, educators try hard to bring shy voices into a classroom discussion and make sure that minority opinions get aired. But teaching students how to report on all of America often doesn’t make it into the curriculum.
In what has become an annual ritual, American newspaper editors have counted up their newsroom diversity statistics. And the numbers have been found wanting. The number of journalists of color within participating newsrooms has hovered stubbornly at about 13 percent for the past few years and even slipped a bit in 2006.
Is race biology? Is race culture and society? Is it history or ancestry? Most of us think we know about race, but many of our assumptions are wrong. That’s what the scientists who developed “RACE: Are We So Different?” have concluded after thousands of visitors have passed through the exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Can journalists be objective? Many reporters say we have to be; others think it’s impossible. After all, we take our life experience, moral beliefs and social status with us into every interview, whether we intend to or not. But it’s safe to say that most journalists agree that we strive for balance, fairness and accuracy, all of which underpin our effort to provide objective news coverage.