Media Watch: Tips For Mainstream Press On Covering Race


When clueless mainstream press tackle race, fiascos can erupt. VIBE phoned NPR’s media critic and Race Baiter author Eric Deggans to dish tips for better coverage

1. Do Distinguish Between Race And Class
“People try to argue that there’s something about black culture that’s inherently tilted towards criminality. The media does an awful job of separating those two, but there’s a difference. We saw this with the shooting of Chris Lane. Conservative media tried to say three black kids killed this guy, but it turns out that one of the kids is bi-racial, one is white, and one is black.”

2. Don’t Settle For The First Source
“Even people who seem to be well placed in law enforcement can be dead wrong. Reporting information you get from a law enforcement source whose identity you won’t reveal is dangerous ground. With the Boston bombing, some people in law enforcement thought the suspects were dark-skinned. Several news outlets reported that and they were wrong. They say ‘dark-skinned male’ and ‘bombing’ and people are going to think Arabs. They’re going to think Muslims, but in truth you have no idea who those people could be. And then it turns out even the dark-skinned part was wrong. Not only was passing along information from a police source who’s unnamed a bad idea, but passing along a vague, racially charged description of somebody is also a bad idea. They didn’t stop and ask what the implications were of putting out a vague, racially centered description of a suspect.”

3. Don’t Rush To Trust Social Media
“When people were trying to have George Zimmerman prosecuted, all kinds of pictures circulated the Internet, supposedly of Trayvon Martin. One was of a kid from Florida named Trayvon who was not the Trayvon who was killed. Another showed a much older African American male with a star tattoo—it was a picture of The Game. I don’t blame the average person for falling for that, but I do blame news outlets rushing to the next hot story.”

4. Do Diversify Your Race Coverage
“There would be less need for an explanatory documentary like [CNN’s] Black in America if there were regular coverage of black people in America everyday. Viewers would understand the issues a lot more and actually care. The specials and town halls are the starts, but they shouldn’t be the end points. They should be the springboard that allows you to offer that kind of coverage on those subjects everyday. ” —As Told To Camille Augustin

Follow Eric Deggans on Twitter here.