Racism and Ethnic Bias in the Media Is a Serious Problem
Mass Media , 2010
"Journalists who think they know communities of color end up writing stereotypical stories." In the following viewpoint from her interview with Lena-Snomeka Gomes, Elizabeth Llorente states that unequal and inaccurate representations of minorities still persist in the media, and media professionals who are minorities continue to face prejudice in the industry. In Llorente's view, reporters of color often feel unwelcome when entering white communities. In addition, she claims other journalists continue to draw upon harmful ethnic and religious stereotypes. Diversity and opportunities for minorities in newsrooms also are lacking, she contends, compounding these problems. Llorente is an award-winning senior reporter for The Record in Bergen, New Jersey. A former newswriter, Gomes is a program support specialist at the Homeless Children's Network in San Francisco. As you read, consider the following questions:
1. According to Llorente, why is covering one's own ethnic community not necessarily easier? 2. What barriers do reporters face when reporting on immigrants, in the author's view? 3. Why are there still very few minorities in newsrooms, in Llorente's opinion? Elizabeth Llorente, senior reporter for The Record in Bergen, New Jersey, was recently honored with the Career Achievement Award from the Let's Do It Better Workshop on Race and Ethnicity at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Llorente was honored for her more than 10 years of reporting on the nation's changing demographics. Her series, "Diverse and Divided," documented the racial tensions and political struggles between Hispanic immigrants and African Americans in Patterson, N.J. Llorente spoke with NewsWatch about the nuances of reporting on race and ethnicity. Lena-Snomeka Gomes: What are some of the major barriers journalists face, especially journalists of color when writing about race and ethnicity? Elizabeth Llorente: Well it depends on what they look like. For example, I know that some of the African American reporters that I have worked with have spoken about feelings of being unwelcome, especially when they're covering white areas. And there are also other reporters who feel different because they stand out from the time they walk into a room. People make assumptions about them. I have been told that it's hard to tell what my race is. Is this positive or negative? Maybe it helps when I'm doing a story about tension and whites are part of the tension. Sometimes, I suspect, they open up more because they don't know that I am Hispanic. Perhaps, they would not have been as candid had they known. However, it's not necessarily easier to cover stories in your own ethnic community or communities similar to yours. If you criticize people and they didn't like it, they are usually less forgiving. They take it personal and see you as a traitor, especially when the stories involve a politically charged group. Do you think journalists of color are resistant to writing about race and ethnicity because they don't want to be typecast so to speak? There are people who believe that and I don't blame them. Sometimes that's all the papers will let them do, and the papers don't value their work. In that regard, it's a thankless job. When you come back with a great story, they don't see the skill and the talent it took to report and write that story. They think, of course, you wrote well because you're one of them. They automatically assume it was easy for you to get the story. They may even question your objectivity. But, when [Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist] Rick Bragg went to the South to write about the life he knew, no one said, of course its easy for him because he's from the South. No, they said, wow he's a great writer. Do you think stories about race and ethnicity still face being calendared for special events or has there been more sustained coverage and focus?...
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