November 23rd, 2018 • Quill Blog, Quill Archives, Diversity, Diversity Toolbox
Covering social movements: Learn the community, relay context
Journalists and Baltimore residents have suggested ways to improve coverage of protests and social movements, such as those that followed the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in the city three years ago. Baltimore officers alleged Gray, a 25-year-old black man, had an illegal knife when they arrested him after a chase.
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.
Among the many problems facing journalism today is the great divide developing between newsrooms and the communities they serve. It is fairly certain that a growing number of newsrooms and their managers are not and will not be prepared to deal with America’s changing landscape.
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.
In December 2012, a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people, 20 of them children. We later learned that he’d killed his mother before going to the school. His many issues relating to social isolation came out in the following months, including the fact that he had Asperger’s syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder.
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.
It has been happening a lot lately: Native Americans misrepresented in the media, often with animal images. Whether it is Michelle Williams’ Another Magazine photo shoot where she is dressed as a Native American in a wolf-like costume or a former Minnesota TV news director posting on Facebook an “Indian and other animals” are on his front lawn, once again Native Americans are being described in media as anything but human.
The Supreme Court hearing cases this year on same-sex marriage have thrust gay rights issues to the forefront again. One dominant voice continues to reflect the perspective of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in news: the white male. “Mainstream (media) organizations will go to the one or two white organizations they know about,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, a statewide gay rights organization based in Atlanta.
February is African-American History Month (also called Black History Month) and is designated to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans, people of African descent who were born in the United States. But the increase of African immigrants is also notable and is changing the definition of who is an African-American.
Years ago, when I was a radio reporter in Fort Worth, Texas, I was invited to cover a Las Posadas event at a local Catholic church. It was a wonderful experience and a great way to share a slice of Latino culture with my listeners.
NOTE: As Quill went to press, and this column came out, the Hartford Courant announced it was dropping Google Translate and developed its own in-house, staffed Spanish-language site. Read more here. Over the summer, the Hartford Courant began offering news in Spanish to its readers.