In a remarkable essay posted by The Arizona Republic on April 19, Greg Burton, executive editor of the state’s largest daily newspaper, transparently details the total bean-counting obsession with race that has taken hold in his newsroom:
“More than three-quarters of new hires over the past year have been journalists of color, and eight of 13 are women … Our goal is to match a community that is 44% people of color … In 2016, journalists of color made up 20% of The Republic’s staff. Next month, they’ll be 37% of the staff, up from 34% just nine months ago. Among managers, that number is 39%, up from 28% last August.”
Unbiased Journalists for Revolutionary Change
If only newspapers today were as dedicated to rigidly collecting the facts as Burton shows himself to be about hitting The Republic’s stringently defined employee racial numbers. The “better serve the community” warbling that always accompanies strict diversity quota systems is barely concealing the politicization of news reporting on display here. Burton acknowledges this himself, citing a colleague in the process:
“’Inclusivity and anti-racism are about the product of journalism as much as it is about the newsroom,’ Kim Bui, The Republic’s director of audience innovation, wrote at the end of last year for Nieman Lab at Harvard University.
To support our efforts, we partnered with national experts from the Solutions Journalism Network, Committee to Protect Journalists and Maynard Institute for Journalism Education to create training modules for cultural awareness and community-based journalism that solves problems and builds trust.”
“Anti-racism” is journalism, a staffer for The Arizona Republic asserts, and the man in charge of running the news operation wholeheartedly agrees. The article Burton approvingly refers to goes much further.
“Those of us who’ve thrived in the middle — and again, as women and/or JOCs [Journalist of Color] and/or digital natives — have already created change, albeit some of it incremental,” Bui proclaimed in her disquisition, which was co-authored by San Francisco public radio station KQED Digital Managing Editor Julia B. Chan. “Our ideas have helped to improve hiring practices, reevaluate our pipelines, place a critical lens on our sources, and decenter whiteness in our stories, just to name a few.”
Make way for the Brave New Media World. Who, what, where, when, and why must now make way for another fundamental W: Watering Down the White People.
It is a task that Executive Editor Burton relishes. Toward the end of his piece, he gets personal:
“Last Friday in the newsroom, I picked up a new stack of letters to the editor. This ritual is timeless, these exchanges cathartic. The newsroom is still mostly vacated in the era of working from home. As a police scanner screeched to a sea of empty desks, I opened my email.
‘As a 71 year old man of white privilege I want to thank whoever made the decision to add [black opinion writer Greg] Moore’s talent to the editorial page as well as the sports pages,’ a reader from Flagstaff wrote. ‘His thoughts are not only well written, they have opened my eyes to concepts and realities that I and many others have chosen to ignore. For way too long our country’s institutions, including the press, have been dominated by old white men. And to be perfectly honest, not very well.’”
Young Agitators With Press Passes
Indeed, there seems to be no way back for corporate journalism as it gallops over the precipice of professional insanity.
Bui and Chan’s Harvard-platform treatise bore the headline, “Millennials are ready to run things.” It’s an apt title, as the young generation entering journalism today is wholly imbued with the notion that the profession has more to do with activism and “making a difference” than informing the general public.
A young Hispanic “journalist” in Denver illustrates this well. Lori Lizarraga penned a long tale of woe in the local publication Westword on March 28 after her contract was not renewed by television station KUSA-9. Lizarraga sees herself as a victim because the station would not accede to her demands that it ignore its stylebook to suit her personal political beliefs on illegal immigration:
“Back in the newsroom, I would raise a concern that would become a familiar point of contention over the next two years. Managers reviewing my piece told me I was not allowed to describe the young man in my story — or anyone else for that matter — as ‘undocumented’ while at 9News. Instead, I was instructed to use ‘here illegally’ or ‘illegally in the country.’ For two years, I explained that I was not comfortable with that verbiage and how it could discourage my community from this platform. For two years, my managers repeated the 9News guidelines.”
Refusing to follow the basic working standards set out by a company is usually a great way to lose your job. But for the Activist Journalist of 2021, it is a brutalization. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which “partners” with ABC News, CBS News, and ComcastUniversal NBC, has taken up her cause. The group has already sat down with station managers to pressure them and promised that it would “return for follow-up meetings” in the near future.
A state senator, a Colorado House member, and Denver City Council, and school board members have also rallied to Lizarraga’s side. Oh, and a shareholder in KUSA-9 parent company Tegna Inc. has gotten involved as well, calling on the station to investigate its “broad pattern of bias and racially-insensitive behavior.”
This is the self-inflicted trap that is closing on the big-box media world. Reporters are being hired and given beats based on what color or gender they are rather than if they can accurately and objectively report the news. Like all obsessions that care far more for the intensity of their emotion than the pure logic of fact and reason, it is bound to end in madness.
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