race in reporting the news

James Campbell discusses the Houston Chronicle’s policy in including information about race in reporting. The post, Nothing PC about not routinely reporting race of a crime suspect, covers routine complaints from readers and his response.

One reader writes:

I was just wondering how you expect people to help identify the suspect in the car-jacking article when you fail to fully describe the guy! It doesn’t even say what race he is! Is he white, black, Mexican, Asian? You are a news reporting agency, and this article reported this crime and I am assuming you wanted people to help … why don’t you have the guts to tell us what race he is? … I know you had that information but decided against it. Why? Was he black? You didn’t want to print another bad thing about a black person? I’ll bet money 10 to 1 this guy was black … You are making me feel racist for assuming he is black just because you are too afraid to tell me. You aren’t helping stop any crime by not being honest with the community. Please tell your news organization … to print the race of suspects.

Odd. When I watch the news and they don’t mention race… I assume it’s a white person. The only time media don’t report what race is involved is when it’s a white person. Or at least that’s been my experience. If it’s a black man, they will say “by an unidentified black man,” and if it’s a Hispanic man they will say something like “by an unidentified Hispanic man.” If it’s by a white man, however, it will go something like “by an unidentified man.” No race mentioned.

The only time that’s not true is when they’re providing a description so people can be on the lookout, if it’s a serial robber or something.

What’s the Chronicle’s policy?

Use a racial or ethnic identification only when it is clearly pertinent. If you would not normally identify a person as being white in a story, do not use racial identity. For example, if you would not write: “Dan Rather, the white anchor of the CBS Nightly News,” then do not write, “Connie Chung, noted Asian-American newscaster …”

I guess it is a matter of perspective.

Author: Paloma Cruz

Find out more about Paloma Cruz through the About page. Connect with her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/palomacruz) and (Facebook).

Leave a Reply