Chapter 17: Covering a Diverse, Multicultural Society

Overview: Ethics in Reporting on a Multicultural Society

Commission on Freedom of the Press. A Free and Responsible Press: A General Report on Mass Communication: Newspapers, Radio, Motion Pictures, Magazines, and Books. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 26-27.

United States National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Report of the National Advisory Commission On Civil Disorders. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1968), 211-212.

Bob Papper, “2008 women and minorities survey,” Radio-Television News Directors Association’s The Communicator, July/August 2008.(Academic archives)

“U.S. newsroom employment declines,” American Society of Newspaper Editors news release,April 16, 2009.

U.S. Census Bureau, “U.S. Hispanic population surpasses 45 million, now 15 percent of total,” news release, May 1, 2008. The bureau gave the following estimates as of July 1, 2007: Hispanic, 45.5 million; Black, 40.7 million; Asian, 15.2 million; American Indians and Alaska Natives, 4.5 million; and Native Hawiian and Other Pacific Islander, 1 million. Update:U.S. Asian and Hispanic/Latino population growth rates have started to slow, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Gregory Favre and Bobbi Bowman, “Demographic changes reflect growing need for diversity coverage,” poynteronline, Jan. 9, 2009. An interview with Bowman, who has been the diversity and membership director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), founded in 1975 (

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), founded in 1981 (

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), founded in 1982 (

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), founded in 1984 (

The South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), founded in 1994 (

The fatal traffic accident in Cheektowago, N.Y.:

“The Color Line and the Bus Line,” Arlene Notoro Morgan, Alice Irene Pifer, and Keith Woods, Eds., The Authentic Voice (New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 2006), 105-126. The chapter includes the transcript of the Nightline broadcast on May 22, 1996.

Video: The Nightline broadcast is on the DVD accompanying The Authentic Voice.

Eric Wray, “Reporting the Rashomon way,” The Authentic Voice, 126.

The Challenge of Covering Other Cultures

Joann Byrd, Respecting All Cultures: A Practical Ethics Handbook for Journalists (Washington, D.C.: American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2001), 7-11. The book may be ordered for $6 from ASNE; an order form is available at:

Robert J. Haiman, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists (Arlington, Va.: The Freedom Forum’s Free Press/Fair Press Project, 2000), 43-44. You can download the book here:

Av Westin, Best Practices for Television Journalists (Arlington, Va.: The Freedom Forum’s Free Press/Fair Press Project, 2000), 23-24. You can download the book here:

Gigi Anders, “The crucible: Reporting on their own ethnic groups can be an excruciating challenge for minority journalists. Does it bring about better coverage?” American Journalism Review, May 1999.

Issues in Covering New Immigrants

Lucy Hood, “Naming names,” American Journalism Review, April/May 2006, Newsrooms are struggling with the dilemma of whether to use the names of illegal immigrants. Anonymous sources are under fire as threats to credibility. Yet identifying undocumented immigrants could lead to their deportation.

Gabriel Escobar, “The making of ‘The Other Pro Soccer,’ ” in Morgan, Pifer, Woods, eds., The Authentic Voice, 326.

Sonia Nazario, “Ethical dilemmas in telling Enrique’s story,” Nieman Reports, Fall 2006, 27-29.

U.S. Census Bureau “U.S. Hispanic population surpasses 45 million, now 15 percent of total,” news release, May 1, 2008.

PewHispanicCenter, “2007 national survey of Latinos: As illegal immigration issue heats up, Hispanics feel a chill,” Dec. 19, 2007.

Bobbi Bowman, “The historical context of immigration,” The American Editor, March 2007. “We need to give our readers more history and more context to deepen and enrich our stories. Stories that tell readers about what has come before help point to the future.”

Gilbert Bailόn, “Moving past clichés on immigration,” The American Editor, August/September/October 2006, 14-15. “Latino and Asian immigrants come from a variety of countries for a variety of reasons, and fair, contextual coverage means digging deeper.”

When to Identify News Subjects by Race

Keith Woods, “Guidelines for racial identification,” Feb. 25, 2000.

Jay Fitzgerald, “Paper’s edict draws dissent,” Boston Herald, July 15, 2005.

Steve Parker, “Is right to say the suspect is black? Or Latino? Or white?”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 12, 2009.

Making Coverage More Inclusive of the Entire Community

Yanick Rice Lamb, “Take time to examine your sources,” Quill, October/November 2002, 38. (Academic databases)

Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparity in Coverage

Cynthia Tucker, “Our opinion: Media blackout for this bride,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,May 8, 2005. (News databases)

Shaila K. Dewan and Sherri Day, “Police wonder if cabby erred before a killing,” The New York Times, May 14, 2004.

Bob Garfield and Av Westin, On the Media, National Public Radio, April 21, 2001. Garfield interviews Westin about racial discrimination he has observed in television news.

Stereotyping in Coverage

Shannon Kahle, Nan Yu and Erin Whiteside, “Another disaster: An examination of portrayals of race in Hurricane Katrina coverage,” Visual Communication Quarterly, Vol. 14, Spring 2007, 75-79. “The study uses a content analysis to explore portrayals of race in newspaper photographs from four national newspapers … . The study found that the photographic coverage of Katrina, while ostensibly sympathetic, reinforced negative stereotypes about African-Americans, while conversely depicting Caucasians in powerful roles.” (Academic databases)

Covering Gay and Lesbians in the News

National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (

Bao Ong, “Is sexuality part of the story?”

National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, “NLGJA’s stylebook supplement on LGBT terminology,”

Robert Dodge, “Gays and lesbians on September 11,”

The case of Maj. Alan G. Rogers:

Donna St. George, “Army officer remembered as hero,” The Washington Post, March 22, 2008.

Deborah Howell, “Public death, private life,” The Washington Post, March 30, 2008.

Case Study No. 20: When a Story Gets Its Subject Arrested

Sharyn Vane, “Too much information?”, American Journalism Review, June 1998.

Barry Yeoman, “Good story, bad result: A profile puts the subject at risk,” Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 1998. (Academic databases)

Read the text of “Heart Without a Home”[separate file in this folder].

Additional Case Studies

Shooting victims’ criminal records: African American readers of The Buffalo Newsprotested when the paper reported that seven of the eight victims of a bar shooting on Aug. 14, 2010, had criminal records.Four of the shooting victims were killed. The paper’s story on Aug. 22 mentioning the criminal records quoted experts as saying that “past or present association with crime begets a certain lifestyle risk.” The story quoted one of the experts as saying, “It doesn’t mean that the people deserved it or in any way had it coming,” and the story also quoted family and friends who objected to reporting the criminal records as an insensitive act. When the story appeared, African Americans renewed those objections and said the newspaper did not respect the feelings of black people. Editor Margaret Sullivan met on Sept. 1 with an audience of 700 African Americans and listened as speaker after speaker expressed outrage.

  • T. J. Pignataro and Patrick Lakamp, “7 of 8 shooting victims had criminal past: Some suggest lifestyle, associations may have put them in harm’s way,” The Buffalo News, Aug. 22, 2010.
  • Harold McNeil, “Black community voices outrage over story on City Grill victims,” The Buffalo News, Sept. 1, 2010.

Covering a gay/lesbian “KissOut”: Since 2005, The Daily Collegian at PennsylvaniaStateUniversity has been running photographs of same-sex couples kissing during the annual Valentine’s Day “KissOut” staged by the campus lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender organization. The 2005 front-page photo was followed by the publication of a letter to the editor from an undergraduate student who deplored having to see “a bunch of queers kissing public.” That in turn was followed by an outpouring of 400 more letters to the paper, reflecting a diversity of opinion about KissOut and about the paper’s coverage. In the years since, reaction to the demonstration and the coverage has been subdued. PennState professor Russell Frank analyzes the case in an essay, “Sucking Face at DearOldState,” for Media Ethics Magazine, July 1, 2010:

The editors’ convention: A Chinese American journalism student was among a diverse group of college students invited to help produce a daily newspaper during the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in April 2001. She was assigned to take a picture of the Capitol Steps, a Washington comedy troupe, during entertainment for the editors gathered at the convention. What she saw angered and humiliated her. The actors depicted Chinese in caricature. And at least some of the editors, who at their convention affirmed their commitment to racial diversity in their newsrooms, were laughing. [See separate file in this folder.]

The Yorkrace riots: Thirty years after race rioting in York, Pa., the two newspapers in the city published retrospectives and noted that two homicide cases stemming from the rioting had never been solved. Local politicians and civic leaders objected to bringing up these unpleasant historical facts, and they put economic pressure on the newspapers.

  • A summary of the case. [See separate file in this folder.]
  • A “Media Matters” television documentary on the case, “Reckoning in York, Pa.” Includes a video clip.