The Front Page: The white supremacy beat

Issue 22

It’s Friday, April 9th.

This time on The Front Page: The reporting failures around the Capitol insurrection, The Chicago Tribune publishes a garbage opinion piece, and how female journalists bear the brunt of online harassment. 

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For journalists like Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, and Martha Raddatz, the way to articulate the severity of the insurrection was to compare the violence done by the majority-white, pro-Trump group to violence in Baghdad, Bogotá, and Kabul. 

This type of "othering,” Janelle Salanga and Siona Peterous report, is linked to denial about the relationship between American imperialism and white supremacist ideology and how that relationship affects people of color in the U.S. 

But U.S. newsrooms can take steps toward rectifying their blind spots. 

For The Objective, Salanga and Peterous break down the reporting failures surrounding the Capitol insurrection and what it would mean for newsrooms to contextualize their stories within not just the immediate news cycle, but the broader scope of American history. 

You can read more here

The Chicago Tribune says it’s ok to kill a child

Eric Zorn at The Chicago Tribune writes that “it’s too early to say what led to the fatal shooting of Adam Toledo by Chicago police, but it’s also too soon to make him a cause celebre. It's never too early to stop pretending that 13-year-olds are inherently harmless.”

It’s impossible to know what was going through Zorn’s head as he wrote the most atrocious article to come out of The Tribune’s opinion section in recent memory. As his colleagues are fighting against a vulture hedge fund takeover, Zorn decided to write whatever this is and someone made the decision to publish it. Whoever was involved should be roundly criticized and held to account by journalists outside and inside the paper. 

Related: Editorial boards that look nothing like their cities shouldn’t speak for them

Female journalists bear the brunt of online harassment

The Washington Post has rescinded a ban which prohibited reporter Felicia Sonmez from covering sexual assault.

Late last month, Sonmez revealed that the ban was put in place after she publicly detailed her sexual assault in 2018. After disclosing this information, Sonmez was a target for harassment, and concerns for her safety escalated significantly when she tweeted about sexual assault allegations against Kobe Bryant on the day of his death .

Criticism of the Post’s social media policy followed Sonmez’s tweet, but examinations over how the company dismissed the harassment was far less common. Now, more than a year later, questions about what level of security news organizations owe their employees, specifically women, from online and in-person harassment  are coming to the forefront.

Last week, Substacker Glenn Greenwald criticized a story by Brenna Smith, an investigations intern at USA Today’s (her first for the outlet), effectively siccing his fanbase on the journalist. New York Times journalists Rachel Abrams and Taylor Lorenz received public support from their paper after One America News and Tucker Carlson urged viewers to target the reporters. Earlier still, in February, the Washington Post stood with reporter Seung Min Kim after “a flood of racist, sexist and ill-informed attacks.”

It should be noted though that Steven Ginsberg, the Post editor, who also condemned attacks against Kim in a Vanity Fair article, did not support Sonmez when she “was doxxed and had to leave [her] home.” 

When patrolling their staffers’ tweets, likes, and replies, how do news organizations miss so many instances of harassment, doxxing, and physical threats? And if they see it, why aren’t they doing anything about it?

There are, in fact, ways to do so: Defector Media has created policies to protect employees from online harassment. “In many ways, it’s just the bare minimum,” said staff writer Kelsey McKinney


The Objective is an all-volunteer network of writers that publishes reporting, first-person commentary, and reported essays on communities journalism in the U.S. has typically ignored. Want to read more? Subscribe to our newsletter.


What’s happening

*$$$ denotes a paid event


A bit more media

Where education journalism falls short
For The Grade, Amber C. Walkerwrites that education journalism fails to deliver on anti-racist policies: “Bringing on more journalists of color still won’t make newsrooms more anti-racist unless leadership grows more willing to listen to, trust, and yield power to Black reporters.” In order for diversity trainings and hiring promises to make a difference, white newsroom leaders must surrender some of their power.

Patricia Escárcega leaves LA Times
Two years ago after becoming the Los Angeles Times’ first Latinx restaurant critic, Patricia Escárcegahas left the paper. Last year, Escárcega filed, and lost, a pay discrimination complaint against the Times after learning her white, male co-critic was being paid significantly more. The paper’s Guild says it “will continue to fight against the shocking shortfall of Latino representation in a newsroom.”

We need more public editors
The “ongoing cycle of harm” signals a need for the resurgence of public editors, writesTauhid Chappell. More specifically, the Temple University audit of the Philadelphia Inquirer demonstrates the newsroom’s internal policies aren’t doing enough to protect Black employees from harm. With his column at Generocity, Chappell intends to “revitalize the role and mission of the public editor.”

Denver journalist alleges discrimination at 9News
Lori Lizzaraga is the third on-air Latina journalist let go by KUSA in under a year—and that’s just one example of the station’s discriminatory behavior, she says. NAHJ leadership, as well as a coalition of state and local elected officials, met with TEGNA management and 9News, respectively, to discuss Lizarraga’s piece and the use of the word “illegal” in immigration coverage, and will meet with station management again later this month to evaluate “diversity and inclusion initiatives and a proposed system to hold newsroom leadership accountable.” 

Ken Burns letter
More than 100 documentary filmmakers have signed a letter to PBS executives drawing attention to the network’s stalwart support of Ken Burns and other white creators. The letter is a response to an essay written by Grace Lee, who also took note of PBS’ role in upholding inequalities by bankrolling Burns. The network reportedly rejected claims that a disproportionate amount of time and money have been granted to the filmmaker.

USA Today fires Hemal Jhaveri
“This is not about bias … It’s about challenging whiteness and being punished for it.” In her eight years with USA Today, the organization never offered formal support or protection from harassment, says former editor Hemal Jhaveri. This was made especially clear when Jhaveri was fired after accurately tweeting that most mass shooters are white men, while white USAT reporters have stayed on staff after far worse, explains Jhaveri. Read more here.  

Empowerment Avenue Writer’s Cohort
Created by Rahsaan “New York” Thomas and Emily Nonko in 2020, Empowerment Avenue connects 30 incarcerated writers with 30 editors, producers, and reporters at mainstream outlets. Nonko told Columbia Journalism Review she estimates writers will be placed in 50 outlets by the end of the year, earning “a combined $15,000 to $20,000.”

“We appreciate your patience”
In a letter published Wednesday, Danielle Kwateng announced she is the new executive editor of Teen Vogue. In the announcement, which came after weeks of social media silence from the magazine, Kwateng stated that the publication “plan[s] to evolve” with its audience, though many readers are waiting for the Howard alum to respond to racist tweets made by a staffer and share concrete plans which will ensure the proposed evolution. Condé Nast has not appointed a new editor-in-chief.


And finally, a few resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | StudyHall XYZ | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook

If you’re a new reader, you can subscribe here. As always, if you like what you’re reading, forward this to a friend (or your boss). This issue is by Holly Piepenburg, Gabe Schneider, and Janelle Salanga with editing by Curtis Yee.

Want to get in touch? Email us at contact@objectivejournalism.org.

Thanks for reading. We’ll have more for you soon.