Journalists of Color


Before the interviews I wanNA share my theory. For why all of this exploded for journalists of Color Right now? It goes back a few years. So many of us went from covering the first black president to covering Donald Trump. And ever, since trump came down that escalator, announcing his campaign back in Twenty fifteen, when he denounced Mexicans as drug traffickers rapist. When he was that he would build a wall at the border and that Mexico will pay for it. Those journalists were told to avoid using words like racist or lie to describe some of trump's worse behavior. That kind of self censorship, especially on race for a lot of us, it became untenable after we had to cover the death of George Floyd and report on that video of a black man, being choked to death for eight minutes. On top of that we are now dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which is laying bare racial inequities across this country. And Corinthian has given a lot of us time to sit and think. Notice what's going on in the world and in our lives and in our newsrooms? You have black journalists and other journalists of color who think of themselves as truth seekers in the same way that their white colleagues, too, but very often when they tell the truth about racism when they tell the truth about. Bright, white supremacy. They're labeled as activist. Highs! They dared to bring their blackness across the newsroom threshold. PSORIATIC McDonald's has been thinking a lot about race and the news. So I asked her as a black journalist in this moment. What does she want to see change so I would say what I want is actual structural change within newsroom leadership? I do not want the equivalent of painting black lives matter on a street in yellow letters, but in a newsroom. It's visible. By that doesn't really solve anything when it comes to pay discrepancies between. White male journalists and black female journalist who do the same job have the same level of experience and one is making thirty thousand dollars a year more than the other. The other thing is that. You cannot have. Newsroom leadership that is completely made up of six Cheddar straight white men. Even. Under straight white women. Zicklin or gender straight Whiteman that power needs to be distributed more equitably. You know the other thing died. I want to see I wanNA see US cover. Race honestly. right? Race isn't just something that black people, experience or something that non white experience, attempting that everyone experience and says and so. There needs to be a baseline of literacy rate when it comes to how we talk about race with an America how it operates within American history, and how that informs. President and what world. News media has played in that way. We have to consider that. The last time that we had a pandemic, the nineteen eighteen flu pandemic. We need to recognize that. The paper of record in Chicago the Chicago Tribune. Is Basically scapegoating black people who are fleeing the American south, basically saying Oh half a million darkies are basically invading Chicago. If that's objectivity as not the kind of objectivity that I want to participate in them. Yeah, yeah, I WANNA get personal a little bit You ended up being quoted in New York Times. Article about this reckoning talking about how you didn't have a great time at the Washington Post. You've tweeted about your experience as a black woman in newsrooms. What does this reckoning meant for you? And what have you been trying to get off your chest and this moment about your experience? In some of the newsroom's that we've been talking about my hope for this reckoning. is that. There is not one more class of you know young. Ernest! Twenty two year old coming out of journalism school I'm who basically have to go through this really damaging gauntlet. We're constantly sort of questioning yourself and your own worth and I think there are a lot of really talented journalists who have been driven from the field. Because at some point, they feel like they have to make a choice between their own mental health. Or being journalist. And they just self-preservation and I cannot blame them. and that is really a shame, because think about the people that those journalists now think about the stories that they could have told. The access they could have had picked the access to walk into certain spaces at their white colleagues cannot exactly and you know one of the ways, and this is not the only way that this is important, but one of the ways that this is important is. We need them to trust us. Our job is to tell their stories and to tell them accurately and to tell them fairly. And if people are are always getting pushed out the folks who might actually be able to empathize with them who know where they're coming from right I? There's a quote from their lake when I fall where she basically expresses the you know, she's probably the only person who covered public housing who's actually lived in public housing? That, yeah, that is. Expertise right that is. Valuable knowledge so I just I want us to be able to practice our profession with humanity. Yeah, and also it's like in this moment where it seems like more than ever before. At least in my lifetime, there is such a deficit of trust. Americans don't trust institutions. They don't trust journalism. They don't trust facts. Worst argument about whether or not mask can prevent the spread of Corona virus like in this environment if newsrooms don't act in fix some of this stuff. is going to create more mistrust in the media and these news outlets will become less relevant in a moment in which I would argue. They are needed more than ever before. Yes, and you know the thing is is and I've said this repeatedly at that American journalism does have a credibility crisis. The the credibility crisis that we have I think. Actually bears a lot of similarities to. Our current sort of Voter disenfranchisement problem. Being. In Journalism, we have not spent enough time. with the very same folks who are often disenfranchised when it comes to media coverage as well right. And when we think about the press and freedom of the press is an instrument of democracy we have to think about. enfranchising everyone, we have to think about making sure that they do find us credible. The folks. If they look at the newspaper, even look at a website or they listen to the radio and their conclusion is. That these entities are not telling the truth about them in their lives and held their lives are. For them yeah for them. That's a credibility issue for us. Yeah we can fix. It failed them. That means that. We have to develop far better relationships with folks who have historically been shunned or shut out of district of media coverage are only allowed to participate in very limited ways. You know I still very much believe in that adage, the journalism exist to comfort the afflicted and afflict comfortable. Thanks again to riot, not at McDonald's the culture writer for the undefeated and also this year. She was nominated a pilot sir. My mind. I wanted to hear from other journalists of color about their newsroom experiences. And they wrote in. Here if you, my name is Lavi Cima Guy side. I'm a naturalized citizen who came to this country as a young child. I worked at a bare he a newspaper for a long time and have fond memories of my time there. I had mostly white editors, and in fact, I've only had one non white supervisor in my over two decades in journalism. My name is John. Sepulvado, I mixed. I have Mexican Irish indigenous and Black Ancestry I worked in public media for fifteen years. There are tons of horror stories. There was the white woman editor who asked me if I like dog-fighting because she quote hurt. Might People like dogfighting? There was another white woman editor told me to smile more around the office because I quote have dark features and those dark features, scared herself and other white women around the office. One time a headline I, wrote for one of my own stories, led to a newsroom wide, meeting an emotional one, where a bunch of US had to persuade top editors to let us call the president's racism what it is! The most frustrating part was that I and others had to explain to our colleagues. Why our voices were important. And partly because they reflected the communities we covered. argued. Repeat, a thousand more stories like that. But at. A point I realized. That no matter what I did no matter how good I was no matter how hard I worked. I would always be seen. As something that is not. White. And my mobile was the leave the industry. All right time for a break. When we come back, we will hear from Latina, trailblazer who refused to leave the news business. Instead. She started her own media company to tell the stories that she wanted to tell. Hey another reminder asking you all to fill out that survey for us. Okay, it is anonymous. It is short and the link for it is NPR DOT org slash I B. A. M. Survey. All one word I BAM SURVEY NPR DOT Org. Slash IBM. Filled out I'll be really happy if he do thanks. This message comes from NPR sponsor discover. Sometimes, food is more than just food. It's an integral part of the community so this year discoveries, giving five million dollars to support black owned restaurants to places like Rodney Scott Barbecue in Charleston post office spies Birmingham back in the day bakery, and Savannah and hundreds more places in your local community all across the country. Learn how you can show your support at discover dot com. Whenever you face a choice. It helps to think like an economist and this week on Planet Lenny Summer. School will start off our course in economics within workout for your brain how to decide what something newly costs for? Planet money from, NPR. People still find it really interesting salmon like I'm like no. No I. I was the first Latina in the newsroom at NPR ever to step foot. WHO WASN'T CLEANING IT? That was me right that that was that. Was this Latina? That is Maria. She's had a long career in media, not just here NPR but also at CNN NPS in two thousand ten. She founded her own company for total media. And she has a memoir. It's called once. I was you that comes out in September, but most of you probably know Maria. As the host of a very long running public radio show turned podcast from NPR and through media. It's like new USA mighty. Hossack Latino USA has been around since the early nineties. It is attributed by NPR. which is why you hear NPR in the credits, but that will be changing USA is moving. As distributor. It means nothing's GonNa Change for you. Our listener that our audience is going to get way way way bigger. We're very excited. Announcement might have been confusing for listeners, but don't worry like. She said you'll still be able to hear the show. But the Journal of Color, especially in public radio that move meant that NPR was losing a hugely influential show dedicated to covering Latino stories in the US. And from its founding NPR has been well bad on race. More than seventy percent of NPR's newsroom is white and of the sources you here on NPR's air, those voices they are more than eighty percent white. People of Color who work in public media? We have been saying for years. Fix this including Maria Hosa. We're asking the question. Are you listening? Are you hearing? And that his own ready a power dynamic that is wrong. This notion is the assumption that they the they will always have the power I. Ask Maria what Latino USA leaving NPR means for this network, but I I asked her about blazing trails. One could see your path to be one of color who found her own company as a shining success, but one could also see your path as proving that the conventional spaces in media can accommodate of voice like you the way they should you know like. I'm so proud of what you're doing, but also the fact that you have to make your own production company shows at the NPR's and the PBS's and the CNN in many ways. Don't get it and can't help people like you tell the stories that you need to tell. I was thinking about that as I was thinking about our interview Sam because. My husband calls me Aguirre, a warrior, and then as I was thinking about our conversation, Sam. I was like well. That's great i. like that, but you know what I don't want. Journalists of color to have to be warriors at into order to be able to work as To work as journalists of Contians, who can bring their entire cells into the news room? Who are going to be seen who are going to not only be seen and heard but actually. Put into positions of power to be the ones who are listening and making the decisions about. Yeah, we want that story on the front page and the headline is going to say that exactly. I want you you know everyone has been using it. Everyone's been going to twitter sharing their reckoning story, the slight the knocked in that promotion. The being told you can't do this do that. Give me one of your reckoning stories from your career when I when I come to this country, I'm born in Mexico. My whole family's born in Mexico. We're raised on south side of Chicago. You know sixties and seventies, but as Mexican immigrants we also understood the essential nature of journalism and American independent journalism and so. My father was watching. Meet the press every Sunday and we were watching the today show and we watched sixty minutes, and because of the fact that it was so American in holding people accountable and I was like that's what journalism is so long. Story Short is many years later actually a decade ago go to sixty minutes when I'm out of work and needed a job actually and. They basically like look, can you Can you come back and talk to us? When one of the old white guys get secret is really and I, said and I just remember like. Like am I supposed to laugh? It's funny. Is that a joke as being? and. As we do in the media's people of Color, 'cause we're really good at laughing things off. Like. Yeah. Banter you know the the the the the we're so smart. On. Exactly Racism! Exactly. And I got into the subway at fifty ninth street onto my apartment in Harlem and I cried on the train. and. I was just like, but I am not. You know I'm knocking to let this take me down. And that was the moment that I decided to create food. Media Winds Rams history. Takes over Latino, USA. And Expands Latino USA grows the show and let the USA's audience twenty seven years in. Is in a continual upward trajectory. You love to see it. As I. Want to ask more about what needs to happen. We are in this moment now. Where so many journalists coming forward with their stories? But it's still unclear what newsroom leaders will actually do to fix this stuff you have been on all sides of media for profit nonprofit. Give me like a checklist of the big three or four things that mass media should do right now to effectively respond to the issues raised in this reckoning. Feel like this is a moment to be having that difficult conversation, which is pushing this reckoning that we're talking about to another level. I'm going. Give you an example, Sam it brings me joy, it brings me no joy to have to ask white men in senior editorial positions how they consider my role as a Mexican immigrant woman journalist. In relation to a president who insults every single one of those things that I do? And and And basis a lot of that on his white supremacy. Which is very challenging word to even use in our newsrooms right, but yeah. I don't feel comfortable saying it. I want you to feel uncomfortable having to answer that question. Because his white supremacy does not impact you in the way, it impacts me, and I am a journalist just like you. I am an equal journalist just like you so now. You helped me to figure out. Harmon handle that because that that impacts our might quote unquote objectively, you have to be able to recognize that you do not have an ownership of activity or an ownership of the media or an ownership of public media, or it's not yours to share yeah. Did any of the issues we've discussed about. In diversity and Unfair situations that journals of have to deal within this industry. Did those factor into your business decision. To leave NPR ex. Look I've had you know NPR's my family? IF NPR calls I'm going to say when you I was absolutely and Bureau Sam he's my family. You know we hung out once, but he's. He's my brother. Because we're digesting PR so NPR's my family Mi. Familia was my first job. But You know I started a company. And I have a team of very savvy business and media executives journalists. And when they said look, we have an opportunity here in in a competitive marketplace A. Somebody PR X.. Who wants to really go big? Yeah, I will say you know they are all of these. Underground email channels and slack channels and discussion boards were journalists of color are coming together to talk about all these issues and there's been a lot of chatter about your show. What says about NPR yeah? Why am I so disconnected? Oh my God. I thought I. Thought I was like connected because I'm on twitter and I got a fat. And what folks have been saying? People who love your show Oh my goodness. They're saying well. This speaks to the larger problems. NPR has always had with content may for people of Color. They don't market it enough. They don't support it enough. You have these program. Directors at various stations put a show like yours on at not great hours. This is the stuff that people are saying. Do you I mean like to the extent that you can elaborate on it, you know. Did you feel like NPR? Neglected or didn't promote enough your type of show. So of these issues at play with the race and diversity in space like NPR. Again. Let New USA right now is growing an audience at kind of extraordinary numbers I think we're one of the few public radio programs or previously distributed by NPR. That is growing an audience at these numbers. And so the fact that. We made this decision. Says everything about. WHAT NPR. Kind of thinks. About letting USA. Now having said that I don't know you know I. Don't know the internal finances at NPR. Maybe NPR's is is really facing a a real financial challenges that I'm not privy to. And so you know, but but when you're thinking about AH, show, that has this kind of. Audience Commitment There was a point not long ago. When one of your colleagues called me up, actually she works in. She's a Latina colleague at NPR in the newsroom, and she called me up and she said. Do you think that Latino USA has been this incredibly successful because of NPR or despite NPR. And no one had asked me that and I kind of like. ooh And I said well actually despite. Despite NPR, do you think you know 'cause? There are a lot of shows not produced by NPR. Distributed by NPR. Do, you think other shows like that in your same boat that were hosted by white people or felt to maybe India leadership more mainstream. Do you think they got more support than your show did pound for pound? Yeah How does that make you feel? Like I said, that's why. I didn't. See I've been feeling this for a long time, my love. News, so Gimme a word for the emotion. Well right now I'm glad that I'm with a partnership with Pr X.. That's not gonNA units not on the table so I'm like I'm looking to the future. That's why I'm like yeah I'm all about like? It's all about the dodge this morning, boxing teacher. was making us do the we've the. We've the constant, which by the way is really really hard, and that's just how I feel is a journalist of color in a survivor Mexican immigrant woman in this like it's always like whoo. Okay well and so. That stuff that you're saying like. How does it make me? That's rolled off me a long time ago, and it is a central part of what has moved me as a journalist as a woman of color in this country is that. Is like. Oh, you're going to try to silence me or tell me that I'm not objective or tell me that I have an agenda or tell me that is not going to be successful or tell me. Okay I might go home and cry. But I'm not GONNA give up. Thanks, again to Maria Hinojosa. She's the host of the Tino USA. We asked NPR for a response to what Maria told us and they gave us this statement. We have the highest respect and admiration for the Latino USA team and from Maria Hinojosa. We are proud. That Latino USA originated at NPR member station, K. U. T., and that since nineteen, ninety-four NPR has been the program's national distribution partner today, hundreds of NPR member stations bring the show to their listening communities. We are grateful. Maria entertain who are produced a consistently wonderful show and nurtured journalist who have gone on to work all over the public radio system. We are glad public radio listeners will continue to hear Latino. USA on their public radio stations across the nation. All right now. We're going to have a chat with someone who just began working with NPR Kelly. McBride NPR's newest public editor. I WanNa talk with her. About one particular part of this entire debate, the way in which we've been taught as journalists to do our jobs that most fundamental level leads to systemically racist outcomes. I am talking specifically about the idea of journalistic objectivity. This idea that reporters only report the facts. They keep themselves out of the story, and they eliminate all biased in their coverage. A lot of folks say well. That only works if you're man and straight. And White. I wanted to find out. Why are journalism so entrenched in objectivity and whether or not this standard is fair, so I went to one of the top journalism at experts in the country I am the senior vice president at the POYNTER institute. I am the chair of the Craig Newmark Center Ethics in leadership at the Poynter Institute and I am also the public editor for NPR that Kelly McBride. Kelly has advised newsrooms about difficult journalism ethics problems for years, so it made. Made, sense to begin by asking Kelly for her definition of objectivity in journalism, it really means that you will objectively pursue the facts in order to determine the truth, and there's all sorts of things that go into that right like there's how you frame the story how you identify who you're going to interview, and then really important is who else is involved in the story. So who edits it because that the the safety nets that are created in newsrooms are meant. To help an individual program against her own bias now the problem is if all the safety nets have the same biases that that doesn't happen right and that's. That's exactly what's been happier. Also objectivity has come to mean certain different things for different journalists. There are some. Who say well objectivity means that you have to. Pretend! That kind of you don't exist, and you have to just simply say what these powerful people are saying doing. You don't provide context you don't provide analysis. It's a kind of. Totally taking yourself all the way out of it to the point where you won't even tell people if you vote or not. And I think. This is the thing for me like there's so many different interpretations of what objectivity means, yet you know that's actually kind of a confederation of two different principals in journalism, so one is the principle of objectivity in this idea that that we are pursuing the truth in spite of our own biases, and that that we actually promised, swear to God that we're going to get it right because we have all these safeguards in place, even though they've failed numerous times in the past. But the other thing is is that in American journalism in particular? It was built on this business principle of aggregating A. Politically diverse audience, and then selling that audience to advertisers, so in in Europe you see much more you see much more of the journalism coming through a political lens because that's just how the business model grew up over there, but over here especially as in different markets, you went from multiple newspapers to a single newspaper. There was this motive that was really a business motive that you would bring in the entire political spectrum and if you were going to do that, you needed to convince that audience that you in the newsroom didn't have. Any particular biases it is refreshing to hear you as a leader in the industry acknowledged that some of this is about the principles and bedrocks of our journalism, and some of it's about business, and at the end of the day for whatever reason we have ended up with a definition of objectivity. That is as much about business as it is about telling the truth and I think what frustrates so many journalists, somebody younger journalists, journalists of color or women require journalists as at newsroom leaders are resistant to acknowledge that I read NPR's social media policy, and it's couched in terms of ethics and morality and idealism. But I also know that part of it is the bottom line is. Not Do anything of the public facing person at NPR. That would possibly damage NPR's revenue streams. And I mad. They don't just say that. Yeah? They don't mean to say that they. Don't I mean that's the thing is they? Don't. They really do believe, and I actually believe also that there is. That there is a line somewhere that we shouldn't cross, and maybe it is way up the continuum on just. If you're a political reporter. You can't help people who you're voting for. Maybe the line is all the way over there. Right, because of imagine that like if you were a political reporter in you were covering. Trump's campaign and you again. I'm voting for Biden though I was that guy. Did you tell people out loud. I didn't tell folks voting for in two thousand sixteen, and I wouldn't but I think gets. Those are the ones where I think everyone can agree, but there's there's there's other things like how much of me do I. Bring to a story when I'm covering police violence against black men. Am I allowed to say that's racist. Because I know what racism is experienced, it trust me and don't make me say racially tinged. Like those, and that's where it gets murkier well. You know you know where I. I experienced this. Yeah, so when gay marriage was was a hot hot issue, right? They were different cities or states that were making gay marriage legal. The Supreme Court hadn't yet decided in San Francisco the mayor of San Francisco. made it legal and a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle on a Saturday after weeks of covering it, the City Hall reporter went down and got a marriage license, and she was taken off the beat. Wow, and as in as an ethicist, right is a journalism ethicist. I was like wait a second. That can't be right. because. She was exercising in San Francisco. What was a legal right? You don't mean you didn't tell people who'd been divorced. They couldn't cover this issue because they'd you know somehow. Defiled the sanctity of marriage by? Getting divorced. So that was, that was where realized that you cannot penalize people for who they are. That's not fair. Yeah, because you end up with the only people that are untainted enough to do all the work are people who are only straight are people who are only men are people who have only gone to college and has a certain pedigree people who are an the deaths a problem, so bias is to right. It's just that we don't well. That's the thing, but these leaders aren't seeing those. Yeah, because they look just like them. I think now what is required to speak to the Syria. Systemic issues being raised in this reckoning. Going to have to be an acknowledgement that the movement toward writing these wrongs. It's going to be in some ways painful and you should do it anyway. From your conversations with newsroom leaders across the country. Do you think they're ready to accept that idea that this might hurt that? It might not just be. A statement and everyone shakes hands, and says sure good now now I mean nobody wants to voluntarily sign up for something painful. You do it because you know that what comes on the other side is worth head. There's individuals in every single newsroom who are part of the problem. Then somebody has to tell those people that if they want to keep their jobs, they have to stop being part of the problem, and that means that they're either going to have to be quiet. Or they're going to have to change or leave. Just leave well. That's I mean if they want to keep their job right like. Yeah and I've seen people. Who are these problem, people? I don't think I've ever seen any of them. Actually chain, but I've seen some of them. Learn to be quiet and let other people lead. And then they actually become the beneficiary. Of what comes after yeah. And then I. Think also so many lessons of me too I. Think are applicable to this meteoroid. Me To kind of work. Because a lot of folks were just literally canceled and they had to go, they were shamed. They were fired. And you said you can't be here anymore. And it was painful for them, and probably all the folks that liked them in love them but like. Sometimes, it's just that yeah. So my last question for you back to these two ideals that butt heads this idea of objectivity. But also this business idea of needing to be somewhat neutral to appeal to a large audience. And reworking probably reassessing, what objectively means a newsroom? What advice would you give to newsroom leaders? Writing up that next ethics guideline for their journalist about quote, Unquote Objectivity Post reckoning. Yeah, so this is where I'm supposed to come through with something really profound and I mean I. I am I. Am humble enough to say. That I don't have the answer yet. But I'm also arrogant enough to say that I believe after working through lots of really really hard ethics problems with newsrooms that I think we are going to find the answer and I think it's going to start by. Recognizing that there is a difference between. Revealing political bias. and. Revealing lived experience. And we need to start there and say your lived. Experience should not count as political bias. Thanks again to Kelly McBride joining us and thanks to everyone who, over the last week or so shared very very personal stories about life as a person of color in the newsroom. I heard from colleagues as well. And one thing one of those colleagues told me about all of this. She said so much of this work is convincing journalist. who think they've been doing it right for so long that maybe in some ways they've been doing it wrong. And then she said to me. This phrase really stuck with me, she said. How do you argue with the fish about the water there's. I. Don't know just yet how to do that. It's pretty difficult. It seems frustrating,

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