How to report on racists without fanning the flames


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As journalists fan out to cowl a hate group gathering on the one-year anniversary of the mayhem in Charlottesville, some are asking themselves: What is the accountable approach to report on racists?

As I wrote within the “Dependable Sources” e-newsletter, I believe there may be widespread settlement that journalists should not simply hand over the mic to white supremacists for an unedited, unchallenging interview.

However how ought to newsrooms strategy these tales? Al Tompkins, a veteran college member at The Poynter Institute, mentioned his fundamental notion “is that no drawback, together with racism or hate, will get smaller by ignoring it.”

Equally, I are inclined to err on the aspect of “expose the racists” as an alternative of “deny them oxygen.” However this can be a actually sophisticated concern. Some researchers and reporters say that the mere act of overlaying extremists may cause hurt.

“Each time a white supremacist agrees to an interview, or levels a public occasion, they’re attempting to weaponize your media platform for recruitment. These are the stakes of this protection,” The Guardian’s Lois Beckett instructed me whereas boarding a flight to Charlottesville to cowl the anti-racist rallies going down there.

“Many individuals — together with journalists — prefer to imagine that white supremacists are silly, that in case you simply expose an clearly racist concept to public scrutiny, everybody will acknowledge how silly it’s. That is not the way it works,” she mentioned.

Sure, she mentioned, overlaying hate teams is essential, “however in case you print a white supremacist speaking level in your newspaper, it doesn’t refute or fact-check itself.”

That is why it’s essential to incorporate context and proper the falsehoods that spew forth when white supremacists and neo-Nazis espouse their views.

NPR got here below criticism on Friday for its interview with hate group chief Jason Kessler, who organized final yr’s “Unite the Proper” rally and this yr’s followup in Washington. He was interviewed by “Morning Version” co-host Noel King.

Whereas King challenged Kessler at instances, critics discovered it inadequate. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie mentioned the interview was “absolute journalistic malpractice.” Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress referred to as it a “catastrophe,” mentioning Black Lives Matter activist was interviewed proper afterward, “a setup implying that white supremacists and folks advocating for racial justice are two sides of the identical coin.” 

In response to a few of the criticism, King tweeted that “Morning Version” “thought lengthy and arduous earlier than airing this.”

And an NPR spokeswoman stood up for the section: Interviewing folks “doesn’t imply NPR is endorsing one view over one other,” the group mentioned. “Our job is to current the info and the voices that present context on the day’s occasions, to not defend our viewers from views which may offend them.”

That is a standard standpoint. However Karen Attiah, a worldwide opinions editor for the Washington Submit, supplied a counterpoint in a column on Saturday.

“All too typically, well-meaning folks within the liberal media suppose so long as racists get an opportunity to be racist in public, everybody will mechanically reject their views,” she wrote. “Sadly, historical past reveals us in any other case.”

Beckett, too, raised an instance from a couple of century in the past.

“Within the 1920s, a sequence of newspaper investigations helped the Ku Klux Klan acquire a whole lot of 1000’s of recent members,” she mentioned, citing historian Felix Harcourt’s account of how this occurred.

“The tales have been supposed to show the Klan. As an alternative they helped massively enhance its membership and its political energy,” she mentioned.

Related debates generally erupt about protection of ISIS and different terror teams.

Rukmini Callimachi ‏of The New York Occasions, who has coated ISIS for years, linked the dots in a series of tweets on Saturday. She mentioned she thought it was informative to listen to Kessler “specific his (insane) views” on NPR.

“I’ve handled the ‘don’t-give-them-a-platform’ argument with ISIS for years,” she tweeted. “In the case of ISIS, it is past naive to suppose that if we stopped speaking about them they’d go away. By not listening to them, we have as an alternative made conceptual error after error in mounting a protection.”

Tompkins, who has written ethics handbooks for newsrooms, instructed me there are two keys relating to information protection: Tone and diploma.

“The tone will be mirrored within the adjectives we use. Keep away from phrases like worry, combat, chaos. Be factual not subjective,” he mentioned. And diploma is a measure of how a lot protection a subject receives.

Tompkins mentioned he urges information organizations to offer perspective whereas overlaying one thing like a hate group gathering — showcasing “proper doing” in addition to “wrongdoing.”

“Be sure to cowl what communities are doing to unfold acceptance as a lot as we cowl divisiveness,” he mentioned. “It provides us hope that we will morph into one thing higher. We’ve to offer some hope that people can rise above previous efficiency.”

A model of this story first appeared within the “Dependable Sources” e-newsletter. Join free right here.

CNNMoney (New York) First revealed August 11, 2018: 7:52 PM ET

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