NEW YORK | The protests that has swept the United States since the death of George Floyd shake also the editors of many american media, forced to question their coverage of the issue of racial and, sometimes, their lack of diversity.
A few days ago, a forum that suggested to mobilize the army to manage the events has triggered a storm within the ranks of the New York Times, up to push the head of the section Opinion to resign.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, it was enough of a title (” Buildings Matter, too ” – ” the buildings are too “), comparing the damage to property during the protests of African-Americans killed by the police, so that part of the writing, here, too, rises.
“The fight that you see in the streets is prompt in essay writing us, because journalists are outraged by the cover or because it prevents them from covering these subjects because of their ethnic origins,” says Martin Reynolds, co-director of the Maynard institute, which promotes diversity in the media.
A journalist black of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has said to have been ruled out follow-up events after a tweet provocative.
Dozens of colleagues took to his defense, but the editor-in-chief, Keith Burris, justified its decision in the name of respect of the objectivity.
“There’s a lot of reluctance to accept that journalists are non-white are not biased “, considers Akela Lacy, a journalist métis, site information online The Intercept. “It is painful to see that we give systematically to the benefit of the doubt to those who have set the rules “, that is to say, the Whites.
“Nobody is objective “, regardless of his skin color, believes Martin Reynolds, for whom objectivity is an ” illusion “. “But everyone can be honest, especially if you’re aware of your bias. “
“A journalist can cover everything (…) if it is formed,” he said, calling for more reflection and in-house learning in the media on the treatment of racial questions in the United States.
“Put everything on the table “
The internal tensions that will be familiar to many in the media, and the general atmosphere in the United States since the beginning of the protests make it difficult to dialogue, recognizes Akela Lacy, who is said to be the only journalist of color in his writing.
“There is a real fear of saying the stupidity, or give in to the crowd, which requires an awareness,” she says, but ” it is necessary to put everything on the table. There is no silly question. “
The debate refers to the lack of diversity in newsrooms, to 77 % white, according to a study by the Pew Research Center published the end of 2018, while the proportion is 65 % in the whole of the active population.
The former editor-in-chief of national daily american, USA Today, Ken Paulson sees it as a regression, after the progress during the years 80 and 90.
The owner of USA Today group Gannett had then, inter alia, linked the compensation of its executives to the diversity of their teams, but also the representation of minorities in the pages of the newspaper, ” he remembers.
But the crisis in the press for over ten years and the deletions of massive job posted on diversity, ” he said.
Today the director of the centre for freedom of expression at the university Middle Tennessee State, Ken Paulson does not care so much of the coverage of the ” dominant “, such as the coronavirus, or the demonstrations, which it considers to be ” very good “.
“The challenge is to tell small stories, which describe what is really going on” in american society, ” he said. “The journalists and the diversity are essential “.
The issues of representation and diversity is also the one of the all-power of the image and strings of information, often accused of harming the complexity of the racial issue.
The images of buildings burned and rioters, who have briefly punctuated the demonstrations, have, in particular, turned in a loop and “diverted a part of the debate for a time,” observes Martin Reynolds.
“Everything must be visual,” says Ken Paulson. “Nobody is going to send a team to film a hearing on the civil rights. (Tv) does not lend itself to a deeper reflection, and yet it is what the Us needs today. “