Accuracy in Media

USA Today has been hit by a horrible scandal.  Reporter Jack Kelley lied in numerous stories, some of which were nominated for prestigious Pulitzer Prizes.  How could such a thing have happened?  Obviously, editors weren’t paying close enough attention to what Kelley was writing.  So what were the editors focused on?  Clearly, one of the most important issues at USA Today and other Gannett properties has been?and continues to be?”diversity.”

Consider this release we found on the Gannett website, where Gannett officials say that, “Even in difficult times, we must carry out our responsibilities to do investigative journalism and pursue diversity goals.”  Phil Currie, Senior Vice President for News at Gannett, is quoted as saying, “? diversity remains a cornerstone of the company’s philosophy.”

He added, “We have stood for diversity in this company for years.  That is the solid base upon which much of our success is built, and that commitment still stands?In News, we continue the All-American contest and the push for minority coverage and staffing.  Diversity remains one of five Core Values in the NEWS 2000 program, and each newspaper has a specific plan to pursue and expand that value?”

On another occasion, Currie said that, “Diversity is hardly a new topic to Gannett editors seeking to make certain that their newspapers are inclusive and reflect the makeup of their communities.  Likewise, editors long have been mindful of the importance of telling their readers of diversity trends in their communities.  This company had mainstreaming, diversity and inclusiveness on its radar screen long before it became fashionable, and it remains there even though some mistakenly think (to a degree now) it is unfashionable.  Looking at diversity in our coverage and in our newsrooms is one of the key issues examined by a Task Force on Newsroom Recruiting, Retention and Diversity.”

We quote from Mr. Currie at length to demonstrate this obsession with “diversity” at Gannett.  None of this has to do with getting the facts right.  None of this has to do with the basics of journalism?reporting who, what, when, where, why and how.  The concept of “diversity” is all about hiring people based on their skin color or ethnic backgrounds.  Soon, it will be extended to hiring homosexuals and cross-dressers in proportion to their numbers in the population.  No kidding.

This preoccupation with “diversity” does get downright silly.  In one statement, headlined, “It’s time for the Diversity Choir to Start Singing,” Currie says repeatedly that “we need to do some singing” about diversity.  He concludes, “Let us leave with renewed commitment to this cause.  But also let us leave here singing?loud and clear?so that others might hear as well.  We, too, must?and shall?overcome.”  A year later, Gannett re-published Currie’s remarks, saying that Gannett papers must maintain an “appropriately diverse newsroom” and publish “appropriately diverse” news columns. We don’t really know what that means.  We do know that executives should stop singing and start insisting on old-fashioned values such as reporting the facts.



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