Home » Uncategorized » When is it acceptable for journalists to claim racism?

When is it acceptable for journalists to claim racism?

caricature-of-steve3 2The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook long has been the reference of choice in America’s newsrooms regarding recommended use of language in media stories.

Does the latest edition (2019) actually say it’s all right for news organizations to call someone or some incident racist?

Doris Truong, writing for the Poynter Institute apparently believes so.

I disagree on several points;

First, there is nothing in Ms. Truong’s commentary that illustrates exactly that the new AP Stylebook says it’s all right to label some action as racist. The specific citation should have been inserted in the commentary—otherwise I can only infer that this is Truong’s inference or shall I say wish?

It’s never acceptable for any journalist to use the term racist or racism unless the reporter is quoting someone else.

Second, I am also suspicious of journalists and pundits who sprinkle their stories and commentaries with contemporary jargon and buzzwords.

Journalists should not be “framing” their stories. They should be publishing facts and observations without adjectives. “Framing” implies putting a spin on an event in order to make it conform to the writer’s hopes or advocacy.

Furthermore, Mrs. Truong’s reference to hyphenated-Americans as microagressions (another buzzword) implies she has embraced the identify politics meme. I’m a White-German-English-American but never use either that racial and ethnic truth. It’s irrelevant to me as simply an American.

I go so far as to say that any reference to anyone as the first of his or her racial, ethnic, religious, class or gender to achieve some notable achievement is also irrelevant. If the person so noted wants to mention it as a source of pride or example, then journalists should report it. Otherwise, I would ignore it.

Reference to identity allows our audience to interpret facts erroneously. Is a so-called “openly gay” politician going to promote a “gay agenda?” That is a fair inference by readers, listeners, viewers if journalists continually mention that the sexual orientation of the politician or candidate.   And what, in fact, is a “gay agenda?” I could list some ideas here but I suspect the person is interested only in the same issues that every other American is concerned about. So sexual orientation again is irrelevant.

Despite Ms. Truong’s well-intended efforts, her commentary reads more like the work of an activist that a reporter seeking an accurate, balanced, unvarnished description of persons, places and events.

DISCLOSURE: I have yet to read the latest AP Stylebook because I’m retired and have no need for it professionally.  However, I welcome the views of those who have perused it and are willing to share their opinions.


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