JENA 6 LEADS to QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE BEATS

Jan 25, 2008 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

Should there be a race beat in major newspapers like there was during the Civil Rights Era? This question is brought up briefly in Raquel Christie’s article for AJR, which talks about the Jena 6 and why it took so long for national media to become concerned with this story. Many believe the reason why national media didn’t catch on, and why much of the national reporting contained biased factual errors and generalizations from previous, local newspaper accounts is because the race beat doesn’t exist anymore.

Former Washington Post journalist Alice Bonner was quoted in the article saying, “We need to cover race because it’s a live, active, dynamic part of society. If we covered it routinely we wouldn’t have to be so frenzied when something like this happens.”

She did admit that just having a race beat won’t necessarily change anything unless news rooms become more diverse, and not just in regard to race. But diversifying a newsroom is extremely difficult, especially when most newsrooms are shrinking. How can a newsroom afford to have a diverse staff that reflects their readers, particularly in a metropolitan area with people of all races, economic standings, sexual orientations and backgrounds? Perhaps, the only way to diversify is through idealogy, making sure that all journalists are culturally aware and sensitive to all points of view. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

To read the article: http://ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4454

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