Accuracy in Media

The George Soros-funded Center for American Progress has sent out a provocative release drawing attention to an alleged media double standard.  The group says, “When former [New York Times] writer Jayson Blair was exposed as a serial plagiarizer last year columnists and writers such as Andrew Sullivan, Richard Cohen and Jennifer Harper lamented that Blair, who is African-American, had advanced so far because of favoritism based on race.  But four months after USA Today foreign correspondent Jack Kelley was exposed for committing similar improprieties none of them have asked the question: ‘What does this mean for the future of white journalism?'”

Even if there was such a thing as “white journalism,” USA Today parent company Gannett would not condone it.  Gannett is well-known in the media industry for its commitment, like the New York Times, to the kind of “diversity” that helps minorities.

The Gannett website discloses that, “In 1983, Gannett launched the All-American Contest, which became an assessment of how well?or not so well?the percentage of minority journalists in Gannett newsrooms reflected the percentage of minority residents in their communities.”  Twenty years later, Gannett says, its newspapers collectively ranked Number 1 in a Knight Foundation report that examined the nation’s daily newspapers and compared minority-staffing levels to local population.

The release says that the report determined a newspaper’s “Newsroom Diversity Index” by comparing the newsroom-minority percentage with the minority percentage in the newspaper’s circulation area.  Those that matched employees to minorities in the community got a “Diversity Index” score of 100.  This is Orwellian double-speak for affirmative action quotas.

Rather than promoting “white journalism,” Gannett executives have been spending too much time counting the number of minority faces in the newsroom, comparing this number to the percentage in the surrounding population, and then coming to conclusions about whether a particular paper is sufficiently committed to “diversity.”  Company executives should have spent more time trying to make sure the stories they published were true.

The Center for American Progress noted that Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts picked up the slack on the white journalism argument by asking, “Did USA Today advance a moderately capable journalist because he was white?  Did some white editor mentor him out of racial solidarity even though Kelley was unqualified?  In light of this fiasco, should we re-examine the de facto affirmative action that gives white men preferential treatment in our newsrooms?”  This is a silly analysis that ignores the admitted preferences at USA Today and other Gannett papers for minorities.  Kelley got an advantage not because he was white but because the editors thought his scoops were going to win some big journalism prizes.  Plus, editors were too busy promoting diversity to pay attention to whether Kelley was reporting the facts.  Our advice for USA Today is to drop the fashionable cause of diversity and pay more attention to publishing facts and truth.

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