Diversity vs. Truth: The SPJ`s Agenda

As a member of the

Society of Professional Journalists
, I
receive the organization`s
e-mail updates
and its in-house magazine,
Quill
.

How can I politely say what must be said? The
contents of the newsletters and magazine are so far
removed from the

traditions of journalism
that I cannot believe that
the SPJ sees itself as a beacon for reporters.

The SPJ has glommed onto diversity and it is not
letting go. To the SPJ, covering the news means

diversity
first, last and always. Whatever else you
do, don`t let the story get in the way of a

diversity
angle.

The SPJ recently adopted the practice of distributing
a monthly diversity “tip sheet.” The August 2002
newsletter, titled

“The Whole Story: SPJ Diversity Tips and Tools,

begins by asking what

diversity
means to journalists.

Keith Woods, a journalism teacher at the Poynter
Institute and SPJ point man for diversity, has the
answer.

First, be sure you are “inclusive.”  Urges Woods,

“Include in your coverage
those who have frequently been left out of the news,
particularly black people, Asians, Latinos, Native
Americans, white women, gays, lesbians and poor people
of all races.”

Second, be certain that your coverage is in-depth.
Woods recommends finding

“the people whose stories
aren`t being told and tell them. Locate stories that
help your readers understand the people and the world
around them.”

If you are having trouble putting your story
together—that would be defined by the S.P.J. as not
having a strong enough tie to diversity –then Woods
recommends you access the “Rainbow
Source Book
and

Diversity Tool Box
” where you will find a “pot of
gold.”

The toolbox offers an online database of

“experts
from populations historically underrepresented in the
news.”

“improve news accuracy and
quality by broadening the perspectives and voices in
their coverage.”

Translation: if you need some more
diversity padding for your story, e-mail one of the “experts.”

All this is fascinating, indeed.  I don`t know what
newspapers Woods reads but among the dozens I review
every day I find no shortage of quotes from minority
groups and their advocates. In fact, I find their
stories told in repetitive detail day after day.

And as far as “people whose stories aren`t being
told” I am still waiting for a story about a

software programmer
displaced by a H-1B visa holder
or a

carpenter
who

lost his job
to an illegal alien willing to work for
$10.00 an hour.

A deeper look into

Woods` page
at the

Poynter Institute
is enlightening. Listed as “Other
Resources” are the Anti-Defamation League, The
Intelligence Project, Tolerance.org, The Simon
Wiesenthal Center, and The Center for the New Community.

The

Southern Poverty Law Center
must hold a special
place in the hearts of the Poynter Institute and Keith
Woods. Not only is the S.P.L.C. listed but also a
contact name and phone number are included.

The Poynter Institute, it should be noted, received a
two-year, $600,000 grant from the

Ford Foundation
to study ways to improve minority
coverage in the press.

The SPJ made diversity its number one cause some time
ago. In March 2002, the cover story for Quill was
titled “Making Diversity a Reality.” The feature
article,

“Getting Past a `white, middle-class` America”

[member archive] was written by SPJ Diversity Committee
Chair Sally Lehrman.

Lehrman wrote that SPJ`s newfound emphasis on
diversity had received mixed reviews. Nevertheless,
Lehrman remained adamant that reporters have the
responsibility

“to
cover all kinds of people fairly and accurately”

with special pains taken to include

“olive-complexioned men and women, Sikhs, Muslims and
devout religious people of all types…”

All of this diversity mumbo-jumbo is done in the name
of more professional reporting. The SPJ, it insists at
the end of its newsletter,

“works to improve and protect journalism. The
organization is dedicated to encouraging the free
practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of
ethical behavior.”

If only these platitudes had a grain of truth in
them! Last summer, in the middle of my research for
NumbersUSA.com (www.numbersusa.com)
on media standards in immigration reporting, I traveled
to Denver, CO. to meet with Fred Brown. At the time,
Brown was the SPJ Ethics Committee Chair and political
editor of the Denver Post. He has since retired
from both positions.

Brown, former Colorado Governor

Dick Lamm
and I had a very cordial session. I had
forwarded Brown

dozens of examples
of major newspapers (including
the Denver Post) with the most

biased possible
immigration coverage.

Brown acknowledged that the reporting was slanted and
unprofessional. I asked if I could write a story for
Quill
regarding lack of professionalism in
immigration reporting.

Brown referred me to Quill editor Jeffrey Mohl.
Later in the summer, I set out from Lodi for Quill
headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Another convivial
meeting took place wherein Mohl agreed with everything
that I said.

But the final word from the SPJ was that Quill
wouldn`t publish my piece about bias in immigration
reporting because I have “an agenda.”

I told Brown and Mohl that my agenda was exactly the
same as the SPJ`s: “…to improve and protect
journalism…and stimulate high standards of ethical
behavior.”

Here`s the final question.

Look at the SPJ`s Diversity Tip Sheet, the Rainbow
Source Book, the Diversity Tool Box, the Poynter
Institute`s links to organizations with a singleness of
purpose and Quill Magazine`s many pro-diversity
articles.

Now tell me who has the agenda?

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.