Accuracy in Media

If you read crime stories in the Washington Post, it is rare to find the racial identities of criminals and their victims, unless photographs of either happen to appear.  The paper is afraid that people might conclude that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes.  On the other hand, if you are a white person at the Post itself, watch out.

Consider a story buried in the paper’s Style section on page 3 on November 19.  This fascinating story was about how the Post is dealing with “diversity” and complaints by blacks at the paper that too many whites are being given too many good jobs.  According to the paper, hundreds of newsroom employees held a meeting to accuse the Post’s top editors of racism.  Of course, the paper never used the word “racism.”  Reporter Frank Ahrens reported that, “several minority staff members lamented that a white man recently was chosen over a woman and a black man as the paper’s new managing editor.”  In response to this shocking development, Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr. told staffers that, of the paper’s 30 to 40 top editors, “white males are in the minority.”

White people, especially white males, were depicted as something close to the plague, to be avoided or at least isolated.  That is why the promotion of Philip Bennett, “who is white,” to the position of the paper’s number 2 editor was so controversial.  But listen to this: National reporter Darryl Fears, “who is black,” was quoted as saying that Bennett’s promotion over Eugene Robinson, “who is black,” confirmed his “worst suspicions” about “the ability of African Americans and other minorities to rise to the highest level of the best papers in the world.”

Does that sound like racism?  The paper did not use the word.  But consider that Robinson, who is black, has been at the paper for 24 years, and Bennett has been there only for seven.  Bennett himself was quoted as saying, “I didn’t take this personally.” He added, “I felt several people made clear that there wasn’t hostility toward me as much as a very legitimate series of questions and concerns about the newsroom’s commitment to diversity.”  But was Bennett himself concerned enough to step down from his new position and turn it over to Robinson, who has been at the paper for 17 more years?  Hardly.

This exercise by the Post in airing its dirty laundry was clearly designed to mollify the blacks at the paper who believe they have been victimized by white racism.  We don’t sympathize with either group.  This is what happens when a paper places a premium on “diversity” over good journalism.  The focus becomes the skin color of those doing the reporting and editing.  This is what caused the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal at the New York Times.

Another topic at the Post meeting was the paper’s declining circulation, down ten percent over the last two years.  There was no explanation of whether the skin color of top editors and reporters had anything to do with that.  Curiously, new number 2 editor Bennett concluded the story with the following statement, “Newspapers should be fun and it should be fun to work at one.”  Sure.  It sounds like loads of fun at the Post.

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