Diversity at UMASS

Diversity on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus is an extremely touchy and controversial topic. The question of minority student enrollment at UMass Amherst is one of the focal points that school administration has been targeting to increase. According to Boston Globe writer Tracy Jan, the “cavalier” attitude of UMass Chancellor Robert Holub in increasing diversity on campus is one of the major reasons why his contract was not extended. During Chancellor Holub’s tenure, the number of African American students enrolled on campus has dropped 24 percent. Holub responded by stating that there has actually been an increase in minority students overall on campus, and a newly developed UMass website on diversity could shed some light on the controversy.

Last year, UMass Amherst launched a new website dedicated to diversity on campus. The website, entitled Diversity Matters, lists several resources for multicultural students on campus, including information on student groups and classes in ethnic studies and diversity. This website is part of UMass’s continuing efforts to diversify the campus and provide support to the multicultural students of the university.

Out of the 20,873 undergraduate students only 3,607 of those students are of color, 20 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment. According to a race/ethnicity enrollment fact sheet accessed through the Diversity Matters website, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of multicultural students admitted to the university.

In a “Diversity Matters” panel on April 14th in the Reading Room, UMass Associate Provost of Enrollment Management James Roche tried to add insight into the school’s diversity statistics. “We do fairly well (in diversity) overall. In fact we get a large representation, sort of an oversample, from the Asian population and kind of an under sample from the Native American group.”

With a record number of students applying to UMass Amherst every year, getting accepted is becoming harder and harder. The increase in applications may cause the university to stray from its’ minority ideals, according to Roche. “When you get 34,000 freshman applications that you have to process, GPA and test scores get more focus and attention than other things do.”

Roche also gave several other factors that would explain the lower than desired number of minority students on campus. One of the biggest reasons for low diversity numbers is the application process. “We get a larger percent of incomplete applications from the African American population than we get from the White group overall,” said Roche. “With the African American population, there was a larger percent of kids from this group that withdrew their application. Only one out of every three African American students we accept show up.”

Why are African American students not following through with the application process? Interim Director of the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, Shelly Perdomo believes that it can be very difficult for a minority student to adjust to the UMass Amherst campus.

“Often times when students come to UMass and they find themselves being the only ones in the classroom, they start to self doubt, they start to question their abilities,” said Perdomo. “A lot of students come to UMass and there’s a culture shock. And often times, if it’s not culture shock, they come to UMass and realize this is a huge institution that is very difficult to navigate.”

Support systems for minority students upon arriving at UMass are paramount, which makes the recent decision to stuff all the minority students’ support systems into a tiny building towards the outskirts of campus even more puzzling.

This year, for the first time, all of the multicultural buildings on the UMass Amherst campus are integrated into one centralized building: the Center for Multicultural Advancement & Student Success (CMASS).

CMASS is located in Wilder Hall, behind Morrill II on the UMass Amherst campus. This tucked away location has hidden the minority support center from students, many of whom don’t even know the building exists. Within the walls of Wilder Hall are meeting rooms, offices, a computer lab, and posters and pamphlets plastered all over the walls.

And it’s all a little bit cramped.

Before this year, all of the offices and staff in this building used to be dispersed between multiple buildings. Prior to the establishing of CMASS, UMass was a host to several culture-specific buildings, including:

  • Bilingual Collegiate Program (BCP)
  • United Asian Learning Resource Center (ULARC)
  • Native American Student Support Services (NASSS)
  • The Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black and Other Minority Students (CCEBMS)

These buildings had individual cultural identities for people of the same race to come together for support and counseling.

Pre-CMASS one of the most important multicultural support systems on campus, and the organization that all the others grew out of, was The Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black and Other Minority Students (CCEBMS). The organization was helmed in 1968 by African American faculty and staff members between the Five Colleges. The organization supplied a plethora of services from academic advising, to confidential counseling, to a large list of scholarships that multicultural students could apply for.

There has been controversy surrounding CMASS, because it encapsulates what used to be in several buildings into one. UMass Alumni Ken Adamson, class of 1977, who has owed his successful college career to the CCBEMS program, was in shock to find out that upon his return the programs were gone. “I’m sad to see CCEBMS go away, I really do hope there is something worthy enough to take its place,” said Adamson.

UMass student Gesi Ebiware, who was a part of the CCEBMS program and other multicultural registered student organizations her freshman year in 2009, has lost interest in the University’s development of new minority based programs. “You don’t see me at meetings no more,  why? Because I don’t feel welcomed, I don’t feel comfortable.”

Despite the negative reaction of students and alumni surrounding the creation of CMASS, staff members of CMASS and University officials have expressed faith in the program.

“Our mission at CMASS is as follows: It is a student centered learning agency comprised of four integrated functional areas: academic support, cultural enrichment, student development, and institutional diversity. Using a student-centered approach that values collaboration, dialogue, and action, the program services ALANA and first generation students and colleagues in courageous, inclusive, and supportive learning experiences. We aim to create partnerships and collaborative possibilities, provide resources, and advocate for students of color and other underrepresented constituencies to make sure of their academic success and personal growth,” said Perdomo.

As the program is only in its first year, CMASS’s success is to be determined. It needs to find a way to establish itself as a presence on campus, and part of that is letting the students know it’s there. It’s jarring how many students have no idea CMASS even exists or, if they do, where it is located. As CMASS moves onward and diversity efforts of the University progress, there needs to be an ease of accessibility and knowledge about these supportive programs offered by the university.

Only time will tell if CMASS will help and guide as many students as CCEBMS and the other cultural buildings did in their time at UMASS. As CMASS finds its footing, hopefully it stumbles into success.

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The Future of Journalism

“What’s you major?”
“Journalism”
“Oh, that’s cool.. you know newspapers are dying right?”

This is a conversation I have more often than you’d think. People don’t seem to realize the direction that journalism is moving in. Not that it’s tangible by any means, but there’s a definite shift occurring that’s going to overtake the future of the profession.

When we talk about the future of journalism there really is only one word that can describe it: multimedia.

Now i’ll say right now i’m not a huge fan of this. I’m a writer; always have been, always will be. I’m not the most skilled at shooting and editing video. But whether I like it or not, it’s what i’m going to need to do to get anywhere in this business.

The days of reporters, beats, and newspaper columnists is fading away. Now we have videographers, piece producers, and narrators.

The thing that always bugs me is when people say journalism is dying. Things like this don’t just die. Nothing (except people and Latin) really just dies. They evolve and they change, which is exactly what’s happening right now. The future of journalism is being shaped as we speak.

This is leaving a lot of room for trial and error though. Now a days we aren’t worrying about typos in a printed newspaper, we’re worrying about tweeting information too soon or editing a video to beat the competition.

Actually, there’s another word that can describe the future of journalism: FAST.

I suppose the industry has always been about reporting news fast. That was the goal with newspapers printed daily, right? But now the goal isn’t just to report the news promptly, it’s the report the news more prompt than everyone else. The faster the better – which has some positives and negatives.

We’re entering an era where reporting things fast is the goal, but a lot of other stuff gets thrown to the wayside. Like reporting correct information. Not that that happens constantly, but it’s definitely a problem that’s going to need to be addressed more as journalism evolves and shifts even more towards social networking and multimedia.

Fast is fine; correct is better.

There’s really not much else I can say about the future of journalism, because it’s just that: in the future. This industry has been ever-changing for years, and it’s going to continue to be that way. By the time I graduate college it could be a completely different field of work than it is right now.

And I don’t really mind that, as long as I still get to write!

SEO and what it means for Journalism

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a relatively new concept in the world of journalism. Basically this is a way to generate traffic to your website by using keywords that will easily pop up in search engine results. Search engines will cue up results in order of best to worst, so the results that pop up first are the ones more likely to get traffic than those on the 26th page of a Google search.

Some people think that journalists need to be trained more in SEO for their websites than AP Style. As journalism moves into a more internet-based profession, drawing traffic to your website has become almost more important than selling newspapers. In an article for the Online Journalism Review writer Robert Niles said:

“SEO will help you gain new readers online. AP style will not. If you need new readers to make money, then SEO will help you more than AP style. That’s it. It’s just the reality of publishing online today. You can either adapt and accommodate it, or shake your fist at it and resist.”

Hate it or love it, the reality of journalism has always been new readers = making money. But, today, instead of new newspapers subscribers you need people to continually come back to your website. SEO is the most effective way to do that.

There are some ethical issues with SEO, though. One of these issues is the possibility of news organizations misreporting things purposely for better SEO. For example, this article about the Mosque at Ground Zero proves two things in it’s first sentence: the mosque isn’t just a mosque and it’s not at Ground Zero. But after multiple new sources reporting about the “mosque at Ground Zero” that is what the public believes in happening – and it’s what they type into Google to get more information.

This creates an ethical dilemma. While news organizations may know that there is not a mosque at Ground Zero, they may keep reporting it as such because that is what’s going to draw traffic to their website. No one is Googling “Mosque-like building kind of near Ground Zero.”

In that article, Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, said:

“It may be inaccurate, but if that’s what the public is searching for, then using it speaks to what they seek.”

Some new organizations try and alter the language, like Scott Rosenberg the co-founder of Salon. Trying to be satirical, he used the language “the non-Ground Zero non-mosque.” The problem with this, though, was that it still put the words “Ground Zero” and “mosque” together, which may be good for SEO but bad for the public’s perception. Even with the word “non” in there people may begin to associate the words “Ground Zero” and “mosque” together.

I’m not really a huge expert on SEO.  I hadn’t even heard of it until it was a topic in one of my classes last semester. I can already tell though that it’s going to be completely important to the industry and something i’m going to have to learn a lot about as a journalist. I really can’t say to much more about it considering i’m not too educated on how it works and what it is, but I will say that if it contributes to misinformation some things are going to need to change with it.

A Visit from Mark Stencel

This weekend the UMass Journalism Department had it’s first Howard Ziff Journalist-in-Residence – NPR Managing Editor Mark Stencel. Along with a public talk on Wednesday April 18th, he spoke to several journalism classes including my multimedia class.

Right after brief introdutions, Stencel launched into presenting to us a multimedia package from NPR entitled “‘Suicide by Cop’ Leads Soldier On Chase Of His Life.” But not before saying, “Never do a live internet demonstration, it never works.”

Luckily for us, it actually did work.

The package includes a video and a 20 minute long radio piece, but for our lecture Stencel mainly focused on the video piece.

The piece was not your typical interview-style video. It was told in voice overs and photographs, enunciating the story of an Irag War veteran who had a traumatic brain injury and decided to kill himself one night in the North Dakota farmland. He left his home in a Tacoma pick-up truck with an assortment of firearms which eventually led him into a high speed police chase and a stand off with law enforcement that lasted several hours. Eventually Savelkoul surrendered and has been treating his brain injuries and getting his life together ever since.

The video is told through North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Megan Christopher’s point of view. The end of the narrative has a tearful Christopher recalling the standoff’s end.

At the end of the presentation a tearful Stencel commented that the video “gets [him] every time.” It was easy to see why – the piece was emotional and personal, and all without including commentary from Savelkoul himself.

After we watched the video, we dissected it. This was unlike any guest speaker experience i’d ever had. We weren’t getting lectured at; we were getting actively tought.

There were several things Stencel pointed out to us about the video. First was that the video gives away a lot in the first two minutes; showing professionally photographed shots of Savelkoul which proved he did not kill himself like many predicted he would at the end of the video.

The video also included many factual details. It didn’t just tell us he had a gun, it told us he had a 9mm pistol. Stencel commented on the importance of being detailed, saying “If you’re writing a story about a dog, make sure you get the dogs name.”

He also gave us some general formatting guidelines NPR follows for multimedia pieces, such as rarely ending any piece on a direct quote. But, Stencel noted, “Ending a story on a quote is very powerful in print.” Which I completely agree with. I’m a fan of ending articles and papers with quotes (and sometimes starting them with quotes too), but when that same technique is used in videos it sometimes feels cliche and unnecessary.

We also delved into a discussion about social media, which lead to Stencel mentioning NPR’s “The Baby Project.” This was a 3 month blog authored by pregnant women in their third trimester. The women talked about their experience and doled out their advice and tips through articles on the blog. To find these women, though, an extensive multimedia campaign was launched – including finding women through Twitter and Facebook to take an extensive survey in order to be considered.

“We are public radio,” says Stencel, “we want to look and sound like the public.” This is exactly what things like “The Baby Project” and social media allow NPR to do. Social media platforms are great for relating and connecting to your audience, something that NPR clearly has a grasp on.

Meeting someone like the Managing Editor of NPR is definitely a real treat and I feel really fortunate that I can learn from someone as successful and experienced as Stencel. I guess all the money i’m pouring into this school isn’t for nothing…

The Ethical Implications of Twitter: Joe Paterno Edition

Earlier this year reports spread that Joe Paterno, a former Penn State football coach, had died. The news spread quickly through twitter and soon enough everyone was informed that Paterno had died.

But, he hadn’t actually died.

I think we all remember this media firestorm. It was the first of way to many media mishaps to happen in 2012 (“Chink in the Armor“, anyone?).

CBS tweeted that Paterno had died when it picked up the story from Penn State student run news site Onward State. Reports of emails being sent to Penn State football players about Paterno dying had led to Onward State initially reporting and tweeting about Paterno’s death.

From CBS’s tweet other news organizations caught on, soon the news was everywhere.

And then Paterno’s son’s both tweeted their own news: their father wasn’t dead, but in critical condition.  Soon news organizations began rectifying their mistakes and reporting the truth, but the damage had already been done.

This incident showed exactly how the media can latch on to things – true or not – and spread them like wildfire. It also raises some obvious ethical questions, as well as questions about using Twitter for reporting the news.

Onward State had reported this story with  reports of emails, not concrete evidence. When it comes to the death of someone well-known, and with extra significance at Penn State, being absolutely sure is vital.

This raises the obvious question of whether breaking news on Twitter is appropriate or not. There has been talked of “Twitter guidelines” in recent months – ESPN has them, with rules such as not breaking news on twitter. Incidents like the misreporting of Paterno’s death rehashes the question of if such guidelines are necessary.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the world without Twitter – but in reality, the social media site is fairly new, and its uses are ever-developing and changing. Twitter has made reporting the news first the easiest thing in the world. No need to waste time crafting an entire article before you can report something – 140 characters and a click later and it’s out there.

But even though reporting something first is desirable, it’s 100% necessary to make sure you’re right. There’s no use in being first if you look like a jackass in the end. There’s no better was to look unprofessional and unreliable that misreporting something like this.

And so that I don’t sound totally engrossed in the ethical business implications about this story – what about the emotional ethics tied to it? Obviously his family was already devastated enough that Paterno was not doing well, but to hear wrongfully that he had died and, most likely, receive premature condolences was probably significantly jarring.

And then there are the people he coached and taught over the hears who were not with Paterno to see he was still alive. They essentially had to hear that he had died twice.

I’m a little on the fence when it comes to Twitter guidelines though. While I think the utmost discretion is necessary, writing out guidelines for an ever-changing medium can lead to an obsolete “Twitter don’ts” list. Precautions with Twitter need to change as the website changes.

Also, as I write this I’ve just heard Dick Clark died. I immediately was shocked, and then a little suspicious. Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing this blog, or maybe this is where media is headed. Personally, I’d prefer to not be suspicious of everything that’s reported just because a few reporters don’t know how to do their job. And I hope misinformation isn’t some new trend..

Will McGuinness Guest Lecture

This week in class UMass alum Will McGuinness talked to us about his experience in the journalism world and his thoughts about multimedia journalism. I’m really enjoying these guest lectures because they’re giving me a good look into my post-graduation world.

McGuinness was recently hired to the Huffington Post’s Education section – after a direct email to Arianna Huffington. Proof, yet again, that to survive in this business you need to be able to stick your neck out and take initiative. Up until this gig at the Huffington Post he’s had a variety of jobs and internships, all dating from when he was about 14.

Yeah, let’s pause. This guy started working in the he was barely a teenager. According to his LinkedIn account he’s been a freelance journalist since 2005. I mean, I’m not feeling a little behind or anything…

Anyways, he went from freelancing to newspapers in his town to holding an internship at his local town paper and working on his High School paper simultaneously. After high school he became a journalism major at UMass, and a writer for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. In his senior year he became the Editor in Chief of the paper.

One thing that struck me was the amount of internships he said he did leading up to his college graduation. Off the top of his head, he said 7. That to me is amazing. I still need to land 1, let alone more than half a dozen!

After college he basically became a workhorse, first working for The Herald News, a product of Gatehouse Media, in Fall River, MA as their Digital Chief. Basically he integrated the media company into multimedia journalism, which seems to be his forte.

From there he worked as part of the CBS National News team and is now employed at the Huffington Post.

He graduated in 2010 and has already held 3 full time jobs in the journalism world. I’m definitely thinking I need to get some more advice from this guy, he’s doing something right! One interesting thing he did say that I may definitely copy is that he applied to 5 jobs a day after his time at The Herald News, as he wanted to get out of his home town. Having that kind of initiative is astounding and I can only hope I get that motivated some day.

Another nugget of advice? Work in different facets of the industry, such as for:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • TV

For a lot of the lecture we discussed multimedia in journalism which he was highly knowledgeable about. One thing he discussed that i really hadn’t considered before was the high cost of multimedia journalism. Funding for equipment and production costs is usually what prevents some smaller and more local newspapers from fully utilizing multimedia technology.

He stressed the importance of multimedia journalism though, in that it helps for news organizations to better connect with their audience. He recommended not keeping “journalism to one platform” since it’s about reaching audiences in every way possible, not being on a specific platform.

We also discussed Twitter and some of the new guidelines news organizations are setting when it comes to reporting news on Twitter. He said that he doesn’t really have an specific Twitter guidelines in mind but recommends “having a strategy.” He also talked about how it’s better to have the best story available in order to bring people back to your site than to report something first but really have no further information.

He ended the discussion with the idea that journalism is an ever changing industry, thus the technologies surrounding it are ever changing also. He definitely gave me a lot to think about.. and really made me want to start internship hunting..

Effective News Package

The New York Times has always had a knack for creating some of my favorite interactive graphics/infographics. I remember during the 2008 election there were a plethora of interactive graphics that I used in order to heighten my knowledge of both candidates campaigns. One interactive graphic I stumbled upon was one showing the events that led up to the shooting of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin.

The graphic depicts the route Martin is believed to have taken from a 7-Eleven to his fathers’ girlfriends’ home. He is believed to have walked back from the store into the gated community of Twin Lakes where he was staying through an unfenced section of the community. Below the captioned graphic there is summaries of accounts given by the man who shot Trayvon, Robert Zimmerman, as well as witness accounts, Trayvon’s last phone call, and a summary of the police report.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin has been an extensively covered story in the last few weeks. Last week saw an explosion in the support behind Trayvon when Geraldo Rivera said that the young boy wearing a hoodie had as much to do with his death as Zimmerman shooting him. Rivera later apologized for the comment but what he said created a symbol of Martin’s death – the hoodie. Everyone from celebrities to sports stars to politicians have been donning hoodies in public recently to show support for Trayvon. Among this support have been the plethora of rallies and marches around the country to help bring justice to young kid.

The informative graphic takes all of the stories that have been revolving in the media and compartmentalizes them into an easy to understand package. It not only tells the story of what happened to Trayvon but analyzes what happened afterwards as well. I think what makes it effective is how thorough it is in a small, easy to comprehend package. I’m a huge advocate for informative graphics like these because they make things so much easier to understand. We hear all these pundits in the news expertly talking about situations like this, but sometimes we’re at a loss for what happened at an events lowest level. If we miss the news for a few days we could miss when a story like this broke and therefore not be completely sure what’s going on. And sometimes Googling something can lead you in circles to a bunch of articles with small bits of information that you’re forced to piece together. Graphics like this get us up to speed on all the aspects of a scenario and allow us to be more informed.

Informative graphics like this are one of the best uses of multimedia today, in my honest opinion. Sometimes people don’t want to sit through a video because they just don’t have the attention span. But with graphics that you need to interact with they somewhat command your attention because they force you to click a button to get to the next page or have bright colors than draw you in.

I’m not gonna lie, I really don’t like making videos. In class it’s almost torturous (sorry Prof. Fox!), but I feel that informative graphics like this are something I could get into. I can’t describe it fully, but they have something that videos often lack. Plus, they do a stellar job of holding my attention.

Unseasonably Warm Winter Could Spell Trouble

On March 1st, a snow storm hit the North East, marking only the second major snow storm this winter. A week later, temperatures were in the 50’s and 60’s. To say we’ve had some interesting winter weather in New England this year is an understatement. Typically this time of year students are walking around in boots, gloves, and winter coats. This year, though, there have been several days worthy of sandals, light jackets, and even shorts.

This warm weather has made walking to class, and just about everything else, ten times more enjoyable. But it’s not without consequence. This unseasonably warm weather has created a few unwelcome problems, including:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have cited this as the fourth warmest winter on record in the United States. A mild winter every now and then has been known to happen. The jarring thing is the stark contrast between last years’ winter weather and this year. Last January, the Springfield area saw 54.8 inches of snow and several days where the temperature dropped below zero. This January saw a mere 5.8 inches of snow with many days creeping into the upper 60’s.

February and March were no different, with a plethora of mild days uncharacteristic to this time of year. With usual average highs of 40°, our 60° and higher days have been a welcome surprise for many – and a possible warning sign.

There has been a lot of debate about the existence of global warming over the past few years, but this winter’s bizarre weather is providing more proof than ever that it may be a real threat. One warm winter isn’t compelling evidence in and of itself that climate change is on the horizon, though. Trends over time are the only thing that can be indicative of a significant change in climate, and these trends seem to be developing – and not only in the winter time.

In the past century trends have indicated warmer weather for all four of the seasons. The regularity of warmer seasons can have many risks, though, including:

  • Droughts
  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme precipitation
  • Wildfires
  • Floods
  • Extreme storms including hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes

These risks are incredibly plausible dangers. Drought conditions have already developed in the South Plains, especially in Texas. Around 71% of the state is under severe or higher drought levels – a high increase in comparison to the 46% last year. The droughts are a result of below-normal precipitation levels and above average winter and springtime temperatures.

While there is not much we can do to stop unnatural weather patterns, it’s important that we prepare for spring and summer a little earlier than usual. Protection against bugs, strong sun, and extreme heat/drought conditions is crucial as we move forward into what could be an extremely hot summer.

Eric Athas Lecture

Last Thursday in my multimedia journalism class Eric Athas from NPR came and talked to us about his career and experiences in journalism.

Athas graduated from UMass Amherst in 2008, but has been working in the journalism field long before then. In his senior year he decided he was done with working at The Collegian, UMass’s school paper, and helped launch the website Amherst Wire. Along with this endeavor he interned at MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, MA, Channel 5 News, and created the UMass 101 blog on Masslive. After college he landed at the Washington Post’s news site have a “catch-all” sort of job with many different duties.m Now he’s at NPR – one of the biggest news organizations in the country. His advice for getting jobs? “Never turn down a conversation.”

Along with talking about his career he also doled out some important tips for succeeding the journalism world. One of these tips is to “always have your journalist hat on.” He coupled his advice with a story about a murder that was discovered in a clothing store while he was outside waiting for an IPad at a nearby Apple store. He immediately went to the scene and started to gather whatever information he could about it in order to report it to the public. He even took pictures and video interviews with bystanders on the spot with his IPhone.

He also advised us to always be looking for news – it may turn up in the most unlikely of spots. He recommend that if you see something interesting to blog about it and get it out there through social networks. Expanding  your news scope is never a bad thing.

Athas also talked about his views on journalism today. Right out the gate he asserted “journalism isn’t dead.” He expressed his bright outlook for journalism in the new age while commenting about the changing nature of the profession. The “traditional” journalism  of working at small newspapers as beat reporters and working your way up is not a relevant course of action today. Working freelance and for websites has become more of the norm in the business in order to adapt to changing times.

He repeated one extremely solid piece of advice through the lecture and that was to NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK! And I’ve got to say, he’s had a pretty full career already – so if networking worked for him I’ve got to get on that!

It was great being able to pick the mind of someone who’s out there and working and knows how hard it can be to get a job – and also someone who graduated from UMass. Hopefully i can take his tips and use them to get some internships and job once I get outta here!

 

 

Racism in Sports Journalism

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“Chink in the Armor.”

This headline caused a stir among the sports community, leaving one ESPN employee fired and another suspended.

A few days before the ESPN article made waves, the New York Post published an article with the headline entitled, “AMASIAN.”

The question is, how do these racially charged headlines get published without an afterthought to their consequences?

UMass Amherst sophomore Austin Campbell believes that the all-too-common occurrence of these headlines may be because people today don’t see racism as the issue it once was. But racism today is as prevalent as it’s always been, as primetime ABC show, “What Would You Do?” proved.

In “What Would You Do,” the show created an experiment involving an actor playing a deli-owner yelling racial slurs at two Hispanic customers (also hired actors). His slew of insults included things like, “Get back in your pickup truck with the rest of your family.” The experiment was done to see if bystanders in the deli would take any action against the racial injustice. Many sat idly by, looking stunned, but keeping quiet. There was even one man who took the side of the clerk.

As this experiment proved, racism is still a major part of this country’s social construct. While it can be argued that racial slurs are considered to be “free speech,” journalists should be admonished when they use such terms when they are writing for the general public that includes people of all different races.

The unexpected emergence of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is the most recent example of how journalists don’t know when they have crossed the line. After posting astory with a headline entitled “Chink in the Armor,” ESPN fired front-end editor Anthony Frederico and suspended anchor Max Bretos for thirty days.

ESPN writer Howard Bryant highlighted several other comments made in the sports world, including journalist Jason Whitlock making comments regarding Asian male sexuality and Floyd Mayweather Jr. speaking about a non-black player succeeding at a “black game.” The racial significance of the emergence of Jeremy Lin was debated on Sportscenter, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, ESPN First Take, and Outside the Lines, among several others.

Melcolm Ruffin, a junior sport management major at UMass Amherst, stated that many of the terms used by analysts unknowingly acknowledge Lin’s race. “Analysts are using terms, saying he’s ‘deceptively athletic’ or saying ‘who says Asians can’t drive’ without realizing they are adding to the racial conversation.”

At the Knicks-Lakers game, fans held up signs reading “The Yellow Mamba” a play off of Kobe Bryant’s nickname “The Black Mamba.” The racial remarks spread beyond the world of sports journalism with Ben and Jerry’s making a special ice cream flavor called “Taste the Lin-sanity” consisting of honey swirl ice cream and fortune cookies. Saturday Night Live’s Cold Open on February 18th addressed the racially insensitive remarks made by the media. The African-American and white anchors would make several jokes that they all would find hilarious, but when one of the white anchors made a joke about an African-American, they all took offense. It did a very job of highlighting the double standard within the sporting community today.

So how can journalists stop themselves from unconsciously (or consciously) using racist slurs?

Poynter writer Tom Huang published an article titled “3 Things Journalists Can Learn From Linsanity” that all journalists (and Frederico, especially) should read. In the article Poynter’s “lessons to learn” are:

  • Even as Lin breaks stereotypes, let’s watch out for subtle stereotyping in our coverage.
  • Let’s not pigeonhole Lin into restrictive categories.
  • This is a feel-good story, so humor should be a part of it. But let’s be careful about using humor that crosses the line.

The racial remarks in the emergence of Jeremy Lin have been so widespread that the Asian-American Journalist’s Society (AAJS) felt the need to release guidelines for what people could and could not say regarding Jeremy Lin. Taboo phrases include “Chink” and “Me love you Lin time.” They also outlined the “facts” about Lin that many typical Americans don’t even know, such as the fact that he isn’t Asian but is an Asian American, more specifically, Taiwanese-American.

Even with the Poynter suggestions and AAJS outlines, how can we guarantee a politically correct racial landscape in sports journalism? The prompt and severe punishment of firing Anthony Frederico is a good start, but he is not the only culprit by any means. Discriminating against athletes because of their race or ethnicity has been going on for far longer than the Jeremy Lin saga. As a journalist your only hope is to raise awareness on the issue and the hypocrisy surrounding it, in an attempt to eliminate it completely.