Some reporters at a recent convention of minority journalists said they were stunned and embarrassed by the partisanship displayed at two separate speeches, with cheers for Sen. John Kerry and snickers for his opponent, President Bush.
Editor and Publisher, the industry magazine, compiled comments from reporters around the country who attended last week’s Unity 2004 Journalists of Color Conference in Washington, D.C., along with about 7,000 other journalists.
In a column, John Temple, editor of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver was “inspired” by the meeting but said the partisanship, evidenced by the “cheering and whistling” during Kerry’s speech, was “something I had never experienced in a crowd of journalists.”
Helen Ubinas noted there was snickering during Bush’s speech, and the crowd immediately headed to the door at the end. Ubinas wrote in the Hartford Courant she was “in the minority, as it were” who acted like “a professional, not a partisan” in responding to Kerry.
Ubinas explained Kerry connects with the “advocacy side” of Unity journalists, but she said showing preference “is the ultimate betrayal — to everyone.”
Akilah Johnson, a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Delray Beach, Fla., told USA Today, “It was a little awkward for me. I guess a lot of people were acting like citizens, not reporters.”
Those who were covering the event were among the many who did not cheer, insisted Unity President Ernest Sotomayer. The journalists who were not working are “people who vote, and they have a right to express themselves.”
Editor and Publisher said other attendees pointed out that some of the people cheering Kerry were not journalists. They also noted some work for the alternative and advocacy press and others are columnists paid to express their opinions.
But Seattle Times reporter Florangelea Davila told her paper, “It was so offensive and awful, and I hated it. It was clearly inappropriate. It was ridiculous.”
Houston Chronicle Suburban Editor Pete McConnell said he was “embarrassed” by the crowd reactions.
In his speech, Kerry said, “We’re going to unite this country. We’re going to put in place policies that will bring us together and move America forward.
”We’ve been told this week, again and again, that we’ve turned the corner,” he continued. “We’ve been told to look at the results, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s look at the record. … Have we turned the corner when 1.8 million private sector jobs have been lost? Have we turned the corner when we’re told that outsourcing jobs is good for America?”
Commenting on the event, Dwight Lewis, columnist for The Tennessean, said, “On and on Kerry went to the applause of many in the audience. Kerry even posed to have his picture taken with some of the convention delegates before leaving the convention center.”
Bush told the journalists, “I came here today to establish a cordial, professional relationship with people who help spread the news. You believe there ought to be diversity in the newsroom. I understand that.
”You believe there ought to be diversity on the editorial pages of America. I agree. You believe there ought to be diversity behind the managing editor’s desk. I agree with that, too. I also believe there ought to be diversity in the political parties in America. That’s why I’m going to work hard to tell people my message. What I believe, and I believe that government should stand side by side with people and help them gain the tools to realize the American dream, not just some people but everybody.”
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