As a former journalist and someone who was at the Unity convention that John Kerry and President Bush spoke at in 2004, I'm highly offended by this story.
Now, I will admit that the story seems to be well-written and mostly even handed. I will also admit when I was a journalist I wasn't very good at it and left the industry three years ago. So take this criticism for whatever it's worth.
The writer says that four minority organization are "largely Democratic" which, in my estimation, is probably true but he doesn't cite any statistic to back this assumption up. Also I'm glad he interviewed Leonard Pitts, who is one of my heroes, and made the most coherent arguments in the article. I would have put his quotes higher but I realize this my have been an editing decision.
I'm offended by the premise. I mean, just look at this title "Can minority journalists resist applauding Obama?" What the tarnation!?!?
This is offensive on many levels. And I'll use two antidotes to explain why.
Back when I just entered the industry, I was working for a small daily in a Southern state. Days after 9/11 I came to work wearing a Mecca sweater. Mecca was a popular brand at the time and the sweater was relative tame. It was tan and bland. I had a superior come to me and admonish me for wearing it fearing "some would take it the wrong way." Like how I asked? Would they assume I was a Muslim? If so, why is that a problem?
A few years after that I was at Unity and there was a panel of embedded war reporters. I asked one of the reporters at any time were they pressured to not cover certain stories or slant their stories a certain way -- something we would all learn not only had happened but happened systematically and on a large scale. He responded with an arrogant and pompous answer -- he cared more about the soldiers and their stories and not the critics of the war. In short, he brought the war rationale hook, line and sinker.
I guess my point is that in most cases newsrooms are ran, for the most part, by old white people. In both these instances, my superior and the war reporter, were older white people. And for the most part these people, like most, we're traumatized by the events of 9/11. Did anyone ask if these people could stop applauding or cheerleading the run-up to the war? Why is there an article that details whether minorities have the right to applaud someone?
I had another conservation with an editor of mine when I was working for a small daily in the Midwest. He's an older white guy who I respect a lot as a man and a journalist. He was also at Unity with Sen. Kerry and Pres. Bush. He said he thought it was a bit rude that the crowd didn't enthusiastically applaud Bush. I told him my opinion. First of all, as a black man, it's hard to applaud for a man who has demonized you as a either a criminal that needs to be punished or a pampered unqualified fool who can flash his platinum "race card" instantly and get anything he wants. Second of all, he didn't really take any questions from the crowd and he WAS AT A JOURNALIST CONFERENCE. Kerry did. Lastly, and more importantly, journalists are a tough crowd. We're trained to spot B.S. quickly. If you don't have anything of substance to say, it's not incumbent upon us to validate you.
The article makes a good point. We shouldn't just heap praise on anyone. And journalists should be objective in their stories. But in their clapping patterns as well? Are other journalists held to this standard? Do we question white journalists and their intentions or their clapping patterns? Did we question the overwhelmingly white "journalists" (and I do use that term lightly) at CPAC when Sen. McCain and Pres. Bush spoke there in February? Just seems like a weird question to ask. Almost like these journalists couldn't possibly be applauding this man because he's a qualified, skilled politician with a riveting ability to connect with audiences. No that couldn't possibly be it. Most be something else. This is what offends me.
Something that else that bothers me in this article is that some of the most disparging comments about "groupies" and "throwing panties on the stage" come from members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Native American Journalists Association. The quotes were almost set up as if it was sour grapes. In my experience at Unity, both of these organizations have gone out of their way to colloborate with the National Association of Black Journalists and vice versa. I'm not saying that their quotes are invalid or mean-spirited but I would like to have some type of context.
Ultimately, I think Leonard Pitts had the appropriate response.
"It's asking a little bit much to ask a room full of African-American journalists, or a room full of journalists of color, who have seen people like them and probably seem themselves excluded many times on the basis of color, not to have some sort of emotional reaction to the success of the person who may arguably become the first African-American president," said Pitts, who is black.
"Barack Obama is the Jackie Robinson of our era," said Pitts, the columnist. "There's no getting around that, there's no asking people not to respond to that. ... Journalists are recruited from the human race. And as long as they're recruited from the human race they're going to have emotions, and they're going to have feelings."