Thousands of minority journalists gathered in the District gave a much warmer welcome to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry than to President Bush, but reporters and editors interviewed yesterday said they strive to be fair in their coverage.
It is difficult not to let a personal viewpoint seep into one’s work, but the goal is to remain impartial, said Stephanie Arnold, a staff writer with the Philadelphia Inquirer attending the Unity: Journalists of Color conference at the Washington Convention Center, which ends today.
“We as journalists all struggle with checking ourselves at staying objective, but we’re human beings first,” said Miss Arnold, 28, who is black.
“I think that most of the journalists here are very aware of not allowing their own political views [to influence] their work,” she said. “Journalists desperately want to be respected as professionals, so most attempt to remain as objective as possible.
“I was cognizant of [the disparity in the receptions for Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry], but since the majority of us at the conference aren’t political reporters, I don’t know if it was that important.”
Mr. Kerry spoke Thursday at the five-day conference, a quadrennial gathering of the four largest minority journalism associations — the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.
The Massachusetts senator was interrupted 28 times by cheers and applause, while Mr. Bush received a decidedly lukewarm if polite reception Friday when he addressed the gathering. A heckler interrupted at one point, shouting, “Shame on you for lying.”
The president did elicit much laughter and applause when, pressed on his opposition to certain forms of affirmative action such as quotas, he quipped that he nonetheless was for “universities acting affirmatively.”
Naomi Ishisaka, 29, editor in chief of ColorsNW magazine in Seattle, said the overall reaction to Mr. Bush does not necessarily reflect bias.
“As far as the applause for Bush or Kerry, I’m not sure who was applauding in the room,” said Miss Ishisaka, an Asian-American. “There were others there beside journalists, so it’s hard to gauge how biased the [journalists] present for either of them were.
“There are pretty basic codes of conduct that journalists adhere to, but I don’t believe that saying that we’re completely neutral is honest. It’s intellectually dishonest.”
Bob Meadows, 37, a writer for People magazine, said he scraps the idea of remaining neutral altogether.
“I don’t believe in objectivity; I believe in being fair,” said Mr. Meadows, who is black. “One’s politics shouldn’t affect their work, but whose personal bias doesn’t come into play? Who you are and your personal experiences are going to affect how you write, somewhat.”
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