Reporting on Racism

Journalists are struggling to figure out how to cover President Trump, and more specifically his recent tweets about four democratic representatives who also happen to be persons-of-color. The President’s Twitter stream, and his public comments made at campaign events and press conferences, have crossed a line for some reporters and editors who are now grappling with how to talk about the President who is accused of saying things that they interpret as racist.

The New York Times has taken heat recently from politicians and other media outlets for not calling out the President as a racist. According to critics, the NYT’s failure to call Trump a racist is enabling and promoting the rise of racism. But according to CNN, Executive Editor Dean Baquet, “has opted to explain what Trump has said, allowing readers to decide for themselves whether they consider his comments racist.” This approach has been the standard approach to non-partisan and objective journalism over the years, but one that leaves more progressive advocates calling for a change.

In a related issue, the NYT was criticized for a headline published, and then changed, in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings. According to The Independent, “The first headline read, “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS RACISM”, but was changed to, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS” following outrage as the portrayal of the US president as a unifier.” In response, Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the NYT’s initial take was a reminder that “white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions”.

What do you think? Should journalists call out racism by naming it, or should they report on what was said or done and let the readers decide for themselves? And, if you’re a working journalists, take a survey to let them know what you think about the debate.

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