Journalism Watch Dog Group Promotes Bias Immigration Reporting

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

January 3, 2011
A few years ago, I traveled to Indianapolis to meet with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). The SPJ is a 100-year-old organization whose mission is, according to its website, "to promote the flow of information" and "stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism." My visit’s purpose was to discuss the mainstream media’s refusal to generate a complete "flow of information" and its utter failure to "stimulate high standards" when the topic is immigration. I arrived at the SPJ headquarters armed with a portfolio of immigration stories, many that appeared on the front page, that rarely if ever wrote in a balanced style but instead quoted as many as half a dozen open border advocates without any reference to the opposing position, namely ours. My Indianapolis meeting as well as a subsequent appointment in Denver (accompanied by former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm) with then-SPJ Ethics Chairman Fred Brown were cordial but unpersuasive.  I couldn’t convince the SPJ to allow me to attend any of its dozens of regional meetings  to address reporters about their colossal failure to report immigration responsibly. Two things bring the SPJ to mind. The first is months of DREAM Act reporting that consistently presented, in template fashion, the most sympathetic picture of the legislation. Few stories addressed the DREAM Act’s failure to provide any additional border security or internal enforcement. Even fewer reported on the millions of legally authorized workers it would instantly send into a tight job market Should you doubt me, perform a simple exercise I did one day to confirm how bad DREAM Act reporting is. Randomly pick a national newspaper, then search its site for DREAM Act. Whichever story appears first, read it. Odds are over 90 percent that the story will be bias in the DREAM Act’s favor. The second reason I’m thinking about the SPJ is because of a blog written by its Diversity Committee spokesman Leo E. Laurence that "Frequent use of the phrases 'illegal immigrant' and 'illegal alien' by our mainstream media is being questioned in order to remain faithful to the principles of our U.S. Constitution." Laurence added that "Only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal." According to Laurence, the term preferred over "illegal alien" is "undocumented immigrant." What Laurence fails to mention is that "undocumented immigrant" is the term originally coined by the mainstream media and embraced by politically correct organizations like the SPJ. And "undocumented immigrant" is "preferred" only by advocates for more immigration, specifically the SPJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Hispanic Congressional Congress and like-minded organizations. Some journalists have frequently used the even softer "migrant" or "unauthorized workers" in their illegal alien stories. If Laurence objects to "illegal alien," his argument isn’t with immigration restrictionists who use the term but rather with the federal government that wrote it into Section 8, U.S. Code 1324 and Section 274 of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act. In the end, Laurence's pompous promotion of "undocumented immigrant" is ridiculous on its face. As a practical matter, in today’s politically correct newsroom, "undocumented immigrant" is already reporters' most popular term of first choice. No editor will strike "undocumented immigrant" to replace it with "illegal alien."
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