Journalists & Racism in the News

In the past couple of days there have been a couple of interesting, and strikingly disparate, instances of journalists addressing the issue of racism in the news.

First, there’s the story about Andy Rooney’s dislike of baseball, which apparently, he attributes to Latinos playing the game. According to this report (and lots of others), Rooney said, “I know all about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but today’s baseball stars are all guys named Rodriguez to me….They’re apparently very good but they haven’t caught my interest.” Very nice. And, not exactly an apology, but Rooney later acknowledged, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said it. It’s a name that seems common in baseball now. I certainly didn’t think of it in any derogatory sense.”

Then, in contrast to Rooney’s racism, there is Bernard Shaw of CNN, who notes the kinds of struggles to combat racism that journalists face, in an interview with Television Week:

TELEVISION WEEK question: “What is the state of diversity in the newsroom today?”

BERNARD SHAW: “Proponents of diversity should never be pleased with the level of staffing, be it African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans … proponents should never be pleased. There is an ingrained resistance in the minds of people who control to people who are different. That is natural because of the way this country evolved historically.

“The battle is never won. We taught our children, our son and daughter, that the battle is never won. Each generation fights the same battle, only it becomes more subtle, more sophisticated, but it’s still a war. The battle is to help this great nation achieve the promise, that’s all.

“Look at the immigration battle right now. We have about 13 million people who have been living in this country for years, raising their children, educating them, and there’s actually an argument about whether they should be here. They are here, and they are a vital part of the American fabric.

“The battle is never won. There are some people who still believe that people of color are not needed in this country. And yet people of color have been the essence of this country since its beginning. So there’s a great education requirement, and all of us are educators and we’re going to make this country work.”

Bernie Shaw gets it right when he says that the battle is never won in the news room or in the streets, and Andy Rooney seems to make his point even more relevant.