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Friday, November 7, 2008

Reporting on race

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 4:34 PM

We reporters should recognize the role we play in furthering racial stereotypes. It can sometimes be a difficult balance to find, but we should think carefully before giving racial descriptions (black, white, native, Asian, whatever) to suspects in crimes. Clearly, race as part of an overall description can be essential in apprehending a suspect, but race by itself is simply useless. This:

The two would-be thieves are described as teenaged black youth wearing black jackets. One of them had his face covered with a bandana.
provides no useful information whatsoever---no height, no build, no descriptions of clothes worn beyond the ubiquitous "black jacket"---that will lead to apprehension of the suspects. There's not even information about which direction they ran, or what time of day it was exactly, which conceivably might help jog an otherwise unknowing witness's memory. All we're left with is "random black people = criminals." It's bad reporting.

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