Posted by Rachel Ward
Roberto Zurbano, was reportedly removed form his post as an editor of a publishing house in Cuba after his opinion piece on racism on the island was published in the New York Times. Zurbano claimed that when the headline was translated from Spanish to English the meaning begame “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” but his version read, “Not Yet Finished,” according to the Times.
To read the rest of the article click here.
This made me wonder, what is the best way for journalists to report on race?
First, lets make the important distinction between race and ethnicity — no people, these words are not interchangeable. Race is a group of people with genetically transmitted distinct physical characteristics. Ethnicity is a group of people who share a national culture or tradition resulting from racial/cultural ties.
Race and ethnicity are topics journalists often avoid in articles, and in many cases rightfully so, unfortunately racial identifiers have served as rationale for genocide, slavery and general prejudices in many cases. However, sometimes race and ethnicity are pertinent to a reader’s understanding of an article.
Shortly after Thanksgiving in 2011 Cleveland, Tex. authorities found out 18 men and boys (charged thus far) ranging from young teens to adults participated in a gang rape of an 11-year-old girl. Many articles reported on many details of this story, but Mallary Tenore believes they forgot an important factor. In her article “New York Times, Houston Chronicle explain relevance of race & ethnicity in Cleveland rape coverage,” published on Poynter, she explains why journalists can’t always tread lightly in the face of race and ethnicity. The girl was Hispanic, and all the men convicted of rape thus far are black. Tenore believes it is important to distinguish this because the distinction raises important questions. Such as, in Cleveland do racial tensions exist between these two groups? It is also important to question, since all the convicted are black, is this specific race being targeted? Maybe race does not play a role, but these questions can not be answered if they are pushed to the wayside.
Read Tenore’s full article here.
- Be careful not to lump people into a label with one racial comment, for example many Native American tribes exist in the United States, and it is not accurate to lump them all into one racial label.
- When mentioning a person’s race or ethnicity in a story make sure it adds needed information — don’t throw these words around willy-nilly.
- It’s nearly impossible to tell the ethnicity of a person from looking, and if you are going to report it in an article you have to know for sure. This means you have to ask.
- A persons race should never precede the mention of their name in any news source.
Handling Race and Ethnicity is a free course (though you have to log in to the site), so if you’re interested in learning more about reporting on these topics check out class here.
Would you have run the race and ethnicity of the victim and convicted rapists if you were to report on this story? In your own work, how do you distinguish if race and ethnicity are important? What are some examples of when race and ethnicity should not have been reported?