It’s not a secret that President Donald Trump has a strained relationship with the media.
But a post this week by Lewis Wallace, a transgender reporter for Marketplace, who says he was fired for writing something that emitted the slightest whiff of opinion, kicked off a new round of media soul-searching about the role of objectivity and whether reporters are allowed to be real people.
For what it’s worth, Voice of San Diego recently codified our beliefs and values into a document to help the public – and our journalists – understand what we want our work to accomplish and what we expect from reporters.
“It’s odd to see the same news organization, on one hand, brag about how it has moved beyond the viewlessness of old norms and given its senior journalists room to express their opinions, while on the other firing a junior staffer who had expressed thoughts that would barely be considered controversial in a Media Studies 101 class.”
Two things about Wallace’s jumped out to me, and they both deal with this tension of news outlets acknowledging that the land around them is shifting while simultaneously clinging to old norms.
Wallace didn’t just write this one blog post, he notes that he was required to keep a personal blog as part of his Marketplace job in order to build his personal brand. That means that Marketplace seems to have carved out a weird space in which it encourages a personal brand and discourages being an actual person.
The second is Wallace’s note that he was the only transgender reporter at Marketplace. News organizations, like all companies, are under increasing pressure to diversify their staffs in order to bring a broad swath of perspectives into the newsroom and reach wider audiences. That’s a wonderful and vital goal – but it involves more than just hiring folks and quitting there. Trump’s words and his policies so far impact minorities and other vulnerable populations more than they do other people. To expect people to remain wholly, impenetrably neutral as their rights are being assailed is, I think, unreasonable.
The assumptions that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency belied a big disconnect between Trump voters and the media. After the election, calls ramped up for journalists to do more to understand and tell the stories of everyday Americans – and rightly so.
But those calls should work both ways. Journalists should do everything they can to uncover the concerns bubbling in their communities. But community members too could do well to realize that news is not produced by objective, unfeeling news robots. It’s created by real people, who feel the same fears and frustrations as everyone else.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Did you guys know there is a football event happening today? In the run-up to the Super Bowl, Annie Heilbrunn and I did a podcast episode on the plight of the lady football fan.
But truth be told, it’s been a rough year for all San Diego football fans – male and female. Jared Whitlock checked in with several local news outlets about how they plan to cover the Chargers moving forward. No one seems to know for sure. And good news if you ever thought to yourself, “Man, I wish this stadium debate would keep going!” There’s a new MLS proposal on the table to satisfy your withdrawals, and Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts hashed it out on the podcast.
Often when we talk about homelessness, housing and transit, solutions are hard to come by. But we tackled three of them this week – including their potential and their challenges:
The county wants to house more than 1,000 severely mentally ill homeless people. Unsurprisingly, it’s finding that’s hard to do.
A new school of thought on density is emerging as the city continues to drag its feet on building more housing.
A transit expert has some ideas for how to make rail travel between San Diego and L.A. much faster and easier.
The oversight group that investigates complaints against the Sheriff’s Department is dealing with more open death investigations than ever. And the bottleneck is impacting other investigations, too.
San Diego Unified still isn’t delivering on the promises it made to hire local workers to build its major projects.
Meanwhile, one big criticism of charter schools that’s always swirling is that they can amplify school segregation. Mario Koran examined that claim locally and discovered many reasons why it’s hard to unravel. On the Good Schools for All podcast, Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn tackle charter school myths and Trump’s pick for secretary of education.
And an SDSU student who’s part of our Storyboard project writes in a personal essay that California’s old approach to English-learners like her was to force students to abandon ties to their culture.
This week the city kicked the can down the road on regulations for supply-side pot businesses — the ones that grow, manufacture and test marijuana. Maya Srikrishnan broke down why an outright ban on those businesses might be bad for the economy and the environment.
The street performers who play music or other types of entertainment in hopes of tips think the city is restricting their free speech rights by policing who can perform where.
What I’m Reading
• Shot: The NFL stepped up its commitment to help domestic violence victims after the Ray Rice incident. In practice, not much has changed. (Bleacher Report)
Chaser: The coaches who led the Baylor football program while team members were accused of carrying out more than 50 acts of rape and four alleged gang rapes have all landed great new jobs. The survivors of those assaults are finding it much harder to move on. (Dallas Morning News)
• Seven days as a Muslim immigrant in America. (The Guardian)
• This is the full transcript from President Donald Trump’s remarks on Black History Month, published verbatim as a humor column. (McSweeney’s)
• Emmett Till’s lynching has come roaring back into the news now that the woman who set the whole thing in motion admitted she lied. This poem about Till’s death, and his mother’s sorrow, is a beautiful kick to the gut. (Poetry)
• A cool spin on a Super Bowl preview piece: this in-depth look into the meaning, politics and history behind “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (ESPN)
Line of the Week
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” – President Donald Trump, who apparently thinks Frederick Douglass is still alive.