Announcing a New University of Missouri Research Study


University of Missouri Study Post Cover: BIPOC Journalists' Experiences after George Floyd: Expectations, Ethical Reasoning, and Serving the Public

It’s my great pleasure to announce formal research a new research project:


BIPOC Journalists’ Experiences after George Floyd:

Expectations, Ethical Reasoning, and Serving the Public


I’m seeking Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) journalists to participate in a semi-structured interview in which we discuss experiences of what has been called a ‘racial awakening (in the wake of George Floyd's murder),’ to answer four research questions:

  • RQ1: How are expectations placed on Journalists of Color unique compared to those placed on White Journalists?

  • RQ2: How do Journalists of Color weigh the expectations of their industry and organization against their personal values, and to what outcomes?

  • RQ3: How are expectations on American Journalists changing with regard to the expression of bias, of identity, and to the social contributions of Journalists?

  • RQ4: How can news organizations support their journalists to understand and meet these expectations in order to provide the best public service possible?

If you are a BIPOC journalist and think these questions sound worthwhile, I want to hear from you ASAP. Just in case you’re ready to start the dialogue, click the "Study Sign-Up" tab above and below this post.


For everyone else, let me give you a little background.

 

Racial Reckoning on Social Injustice

Black Lives Matter Protest in Philadelphia after the death of George Floyd

In the months following the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, emboldened and moved by the news coverage, a surge of journalists defied traditional journalistic norms which demand detachment and objectivity, to speak out against systemic racism.


Journalists came forward to comment on the unfair policies of their organizations ((Mock, 2020), (Carroll, 2020)), to openly support BLM rallies themselves ((Thompson, 2020), (Lee & Smith, 2020)), or to decry the conditions of being Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC) reporting on Race in an industry dominated by white culture ((Peck, 2020), (Gonzalez, 2020), (Justin, 2020), (Ingram, 2020)).


When asked whether journalists should publicly speak out as they had been doing, Co-Founder of Study Hall, P.E. Moskowitz, appraised this historical moment bluntly,

“I think, more and more, people are making [the] decision that hiding their politics and not fighting for what they believe in isn’t worth the increasingly shitty journalism jobs that are available” -PE Moskowitz

Many spoke out. Some lost their jobs. Some started conversations that have continued through to today.


These are some of the things these journalists have been saying:

But not everyone agrees that journalists should allow their racial and ethnic identity to influence their reporting. Compare these sentiments to The New York Times’ ethical guidelines.

“If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom” -New York Times

The prevailing school of 20th century American journalism thought canonizes the element of objectivity (Himelboim & Limor, 2011). Thomas Kent explains objectivity this way:

At heart objective journalism sets out to establish the facts about a situation, report fairly the range of opinion around it, and take a first cut at what arguments are the most reasonable… To show their commitment to balance, journalists should keep their personal opinions to themselves. -Thomas Kent

So what should journalists do? Do their best to report “just the facts?” Allow their perspectives to inform their journalism and engagement in society? One might do disservice to the issues. One might lose you your job.


Experts are still arguing which is which.


In the confrontation between more “Free Press” and more recently emerging “Social Responsibility” based models of journalism, BIPOC journalists occupy an especially precarious position.


They're still underrepresented in the newsroom despite decades of affirmative action-based policies. But even with their gains, many journalism professionals saw BIPOC journalists as recipients of unfair selection and as inferior to white journalists who were hired for their qualifications (Mott & Adams, 1984).

Minority Population vs Minorities in Newsrooms

The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Detroit Free Press; used to restrict journalists of color from reporting on Africa presuming journalists of color were unable to be impartial (Newkirk, 2000). Now these journalists are being asked to “fairly” cover George Floyd, widespread systemic racism, implicit bias, and BIPOC media trauma.


Pressured to prove their professional objectivity by perpetuating negative slants on communities of color, then often branded a “race traitor” by the BIPOC community when they do so; BIPOC journalists have been uniquely constrained by the professional expectations placed on them (Newkirk, 2000). In this space the decision to speak out on systemic racism is a consequential one.


How BIPOC journalists define “fair,” how they decipher their job responsibilities, how they understand what society needs, and how newsrooms support their efforts; all stand to determine how much (or little) this generation will learn from this period of racial awakening, and from those to come.


(Here's one special detailing how journalists are identifying the current journalism needs of society:

Critical Race Theory tells us that racial minorities possess valuable and unique perspectives social majority members are unlikely to know or fully comprehend due to their unique histories and experiences with oppression (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). This researcher stands committed to documenting the invaluable wisdom of BIPOC journalists while the death of George Floyd (and the following protests) are still fresh in our minds.


To harness the interest and energy of current discussions on journalistic conduct, to give voice to an invaluable and underrepresented population, as well as to provide guidance for the modern News Media-person navigating difficult conversations on Journalism Ethics in light of Racial Injustice, this study seeks to answer the following research questions:

  • RQ1: How are expectations placed on Journalists of Color unique compared to those placed on White Journalists?

  • RQ2: How do Journalists of Color weigh the expectations of their industry and organization against their personal values, and to what outcomes?

  • RQ3: How are expectations on American Journalists changing with regard to the expression of bias, of identity, and to the social contributions of Journalists?

  • RQ4: How can news organizations support their journalists to understand and meet these expectations in order to provide the best public service possible?

I'm so excited to dig into these questions, and I hope you are too!

 

Supporting this Study


If you’ve read through to here – thank you! This study needs interested parties like you to succeed.


Remember that you can sign up to participate in the study by clicking the "Study Sign-Up" tab above and below this post. If you know someone who might be interested in participating, please forward this article to them or send them the document linked below calling for study participants.

Call for Study Participants (BIPOC Journ
.
Download • 124KB

Participants will need to participate in a short screening call to confirm eligibility and then attend an approximately one-hour semi-structured interview over Zoom. This is an unpaid study, but participants may rest assured that their contributions will be serving the Journalism industry, our Democracy, and our society at large.

Minority Individuals

Interviews will be conducted through June and data analysis will follow thereafter. I expect to publish my findings in 2022.


Thank you so much for your assistance in exploring the important contributions of BIPOC journalists. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns via the "Contact Me" tab. I'll do my best to address your message in a timely manner.


If you would like to collaborate in ways not described in this document (e.g., promoting the study, speaking on or off record about the topics of this research project, etc.), I want to hear it!


The success of this research project is dependent on like-minded individuals like yourself, so thank you in advance for all your assistance, collaboration, and contributions.

Post It Notes with "Thank You" in many languages

References

Barr, J. (2020, July 13). "I Have Struggled": Black TV Journalists Talk George Floyd Coverage, Industry Diversity. Retrieved from Hollywood Reporter: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/i-have-struggled-black-tv-journalists-talk-george-floyd-coverage-industry-diversity-1298146


Carroll, N. (2020, June 12). The Backstory: As journalists speak up about racial tension at work, newsrooms take action. Retrieved from USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/06/12/systemic-racism-journalists-feel-tension-newsrooms-take-action/5338335002/


Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York City: New York University Press.


Gonzalez, C. A. (2020, June 4). George Floyd protests: We need black journalists covering this moment. Retrieved from San Francisco Chronicle: https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/George-Floyd-protests-We-need-black-journalists-15317859.php


Himelboim, I., & Limor, Y. (2011). Media Institutions, News Organizations, and the Journalistic Social Role. Mass Communication & Society, 71-92.


Ingram, M. (2020, July 9). Black journalists face challenges that stem from systemic racism. Retrieved from The Media Today: https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/black-journalists-systemic-racism.php


Justin, N. (2020, July 4). Floyd story got personal for Black journalists. Retrieved from Star Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/floyd-story-got-personal-for-black-journalists/571607492/?refresh=true


LA Times. (2021, February 25). Black journalists talk about covering racism and the pandemic. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSSXi5eKx9I


Lee, E., & Smith, B. (2020, June 8). Axios Allows Its Reporters to Join Protests. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/business/media/axios-allows-reporters-protest-march.html


Mock, B. (2020, June 11). The Voices Behind the Clash at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from Bloomberg City Lab: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-11/the-pittsburgh-post-gazette-controversy-explained


Mott, J. D., & Adams, S. (1984). Journalism Instruction Concerning Racism and Related Knowledge: Some Perspectives held by Administrators. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 53, 50-58.


New York Times. (2020, November 3). Social Media. Retrieved from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/editorial-standards/social-media-guidelines.html


Newkirk, P. (2000). Within the Veil. New York City: New York University Press.


Peck, P. (2020, May 29). Black Journalists Are Exhausted. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/opinion/coronavirus-black-people-media.html


Tesler, M. (2020, August 19). Support For Black Lives Matter Surged During Protests, But Is Waning Among White Americans. Retrieved from Five Thirty Eight: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/support-for-black-lives-matter-surged-during-protests-but-is-waning-among-white-americans/


Thompson, L. A. (2020, June 19). Should a Journalist be able to Attend a #BlackLivesMatter Protest as a Civilian? Retrieved from Media Diversity Institute: https://www.media-diversity.org/should-a-journalist-be-able-to-attend-a-blacklivesmatter-protest-as-a-civilian/


Washington, J. (2020, June 18). Why did Black Lives Matter protests attract unprecedented white support? Retrieved from The Undefeated: https://theundefeated.com/features/why-did-black-lives-matter-protests-attract-unprecedented-white-support/