Asian Journalist Group: Don't Mention VT Shooter's Ethnicity
Like the rest of the nation, we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) are stunned at the news of today's shooting at Virginia Tech. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends as they cope with this horrific incident.
As coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting continues to unfold, AAJA urges all media to avoid using racial identifiers unless there is a compelling or germane reason. There is no evidence at this early point that the race or ethnicity of the suspected gunman has anything to do with the incident, and to include such mention serves only to unfairly portray an entire people.
The effect of mentioning race can be powerfully harmful. It can subject people to unfair treatment based simply on skin color and heritage.
We further remind members of the media that the standards of news reporting should be universal and applied equally no matter the platform or medium, including blogs.
The advisory doesn't say anything about naming Cho's national origin, which is pretty much germane to any instance of news coverage.
But race, ethnicity, and national origin seem to be "compelling and germane" considerations to the AAJA for increasing "diversity" in American newsrooms. Witness their March 27 news release (parts in bold are my emphasis):
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 26, 2007) - With newspapers across the country experiencing dramatic changes in recent months due to consolidation, convergence and staff downsizing, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) today called for the nation's newspaper editors not to lose sight of the importance of diversity in newsrooms and in the coverage of the country's diverse communities.
"Now more than ever as we navigate tremendous challenges, it is crucial for industry leaders to ensure diversity at all levels. Diversity is fundamental to fair and accurate coverage of communities of color, which are growing exponentially nationwide," said AAJA President Jeanne Mariani-Belding, attending the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), held March 27-30 in Washington, D.C.
"While it's encouraging to see the number of Asian Americans in our newsrooms increase, clearly there's much more work to be done in terms of attaining diversity in our management ranks, particularly at the highest levels. Having journalists of color in key decision-making roles not only enriches our journalism, but also reflects a true commitment from media companies to reflect America's demographics and properly serve our core audiences," said Mariani-Belding, who is also editorial and opinion editor at The Honolulu Advertiser.
In other words, according to the AAJA, it's good journalism to avoid mentioning race or ethnicity of a mass murderer while at the same time the race and ethnicity of reporters and editors are crucial factors to promoting good journalism.
(h/t Brian Montopoli at CBSNews.com's "Public Eye")