My Sanskrit name is Joen Uvaaca, courtesy of Amritas. I’m deeply flattered. I won this honor by giving my input on his post on the Society for Professional Journalists’ Guidelines for Countering Racial, Ethnic and Religious Profiling. As Amritas writes, some are perfectly sensible. Others are not.
“Cover the victims of harassment, murder and other hate crimes as thoroughly as you cover the victims of overt terrorist attacks.”
Harassment is as newsworthy as terrorism?
Stephen Dewey of Talon News notes the SPJ guidelines assert that “the basic meaning of ‘jihad’ is to exert oneself for the good of Islam and to better oneself.”
Another bullet point on the SPJ guidelines reads: “When writing about terrorism, remember to include white supremacists, radical anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such activity.”
Besides the obvious point that such a writing procedure inappropriately amplifies coverage of white supremacist and radical anti-abortionist attacks, the practice also ensures that much-needed coverage of homegrown terrorism is watered down with unrelated, distracting elements that distort the basic point. Readers are unlikely to fully recognize the immediacy and extent of the peril posed by Muslim terrorists so long as the mainstream media exaggerate the threat posed by unrelated, smaller groups.
Say “Saudi Arabian terrorists” rather than “Islamic terrorists,” the guidelines advise. But is that really accurate?
SPJ tells journalists to “Ask men and women from within targeted communities to review your coverage and make suggestions.”
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes has compared the policy to “a columnist calling in a tobacco executive to edit an article about the health risks of smoking, or giving an advertiser the chance to edit a story about his industry.”
I think it’s OK to ask Muslims about the coverage of Muslims; many newspapers would benefit from asking Christians what they think of the newspaper’s coverage of Christians. The trick is to be able to use what’s useful and ignore the inevitable attempts to turn the newspaper into a PR agency for a particular group.
Update: Actually Joen uvaaca means “Joanne says.” Still cool. I’m Joen Jekabs in Amritish Sanskrit. See the comments section for details.