Whose News?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Sen. Barack Obama's run for the White House has kept race in the headlines like few other news events have, and it raises some questions for journalists about covering his campaign. Specifically, how does a black journalist cover Obama in a positive light without seeming like an advocate, and how does a white journalist criticize Obama and avoid accusations of racism? Try as they might, everyone's a critic, and race can be especially tricky. And then there's that grey area between intention and perception — even if a writer intends to pen a balanced piece, if the readers disagree, they'll be taken to task. So as consumers of news in this political cycle, I want to know: When you read pieces about the candidate — be they pro or con — do you wonder about the race of the writer? Furthermore, do you trust some reporters more — or less — because of their race?

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Why don't we call it "the myth of race"
Mr. Obama is mixed and so are 60% of the kids in my urban high school. Perhaps the media, including NPR, is perpetuating black white red yellow brown divisions because it has "legs"

Sent by Reid Johnson | 3:46 PM | 8-6-2008

I hear a lot of discussion about race (much of it on NPR). Most broadcasters are comfortable speculating or discussing Obama's race, and its perception by voters. Sen. Obama, of course, wishes that his race was not an issue at all. BUT, I never hear a similar discussion about age, the matter that McCain hopes will not be an issue. Why is Obama's race so freely discussed, and McCain's age is not. I would love to see NPR correct this. Have a couple people on who will talk about whether or not age--and voter's perceptions of it--will have an impact on McCain's ability to get elected.

Sent by N. Diane Simpson | 3:56 PM | 8-6-2008

I'm a chubby middle aged white woman just outside of Detroit, Mi in a small city called Pontiac. I listen to a variety of news sources and am particularly aware that Michelle Martin is absolutely correct.

The race of the reporter makes as much of a difference in the reporting as my own race makes when I interpret the information in the media. If I don't make a point of watching Tavis Smiley on PBS and listening to "News and Notes" On Michigan Public Radio or to the program "Detroit Today" everyday, I'm only getting a small part of the news. It is truly necessary for us as media consumers to be aware of as many perspectives as possible. I'm lucky in that I have the opportunity to listen to the NPR station from Ann Arbor as well as the station from Wayne State University. Each has a subtly different approach to the news and to what they cover as news, much of which is based on the racial demographics of their respective audiences. I value both very much

Sent by Chris McCauley | 3:58 PM | 8-6-2008

Obama is as much white as black. I recently finished reading Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. I wondered if he was being facetious when he wrote that a woman or man was then (in the 1840s) perceived to be black (and therefore something less than white) if they had even 1/32 of black blood in them.

Why are we still stuck in this archaic mode?

Sent by Charlotte Devorak | 3:59 PM | 8-6-2008

If I, as a 'white' journalist, were to take Michelle's advice and check the racial sensitivity of my stories by replacing my subject's race with mine, I would come-off sounding like a white supremacist!

Sent by eric | 4:04 PM | 8-6-2008

I find it amazing that we have been having this conversation for so many months about race on the campaign trail and we have been listening to political pundents and journalist rather than the learned on the matter like Dr. Cornel West or Fellows from the Manhattan Institute Center on Race and Ethnicity.

Sent by Kandice Richardson Fowler | 4:08 PM | 8-6-2008

why is it that people do not see the reality of what is in front of them?
generally most humans personalize things. so combined and dependent upon the personal beliefs or exposures one has experienced and the lack or inability to evaluate a situation without bias...results in an unrealistic view. the color of one's skin has nothing to do with the content of the mind or the character of the person. unfortunately most people, black, white, brown, yellow etc personalize that they are being victimized and suppressed, when in reality they themselves are perpetuating the ugliness fear and hate. get over yourselves. get out of yourselves. don't assume to know what is in someone else's mind.

Sent by sonia | 4:10 PM | 8-6-2008

Just listened to the show and appreciated the discussion about objective versus subjective truth. Someone made the comment (paraphrasing) "there's no doubt Obama's had a good ride [from the press]". Well, here's some objective truth about that: according to George Mason University, Obama has had significantly more negative coverage from network news than has McCain. The media has gone overboard in compensating for Obama-mania and is now refusing to call out McCain (i.e., where is the MSM on today's Washington Post report on McCain's campaign finances?) http://www.cmpa.com/

Sent by Ron Greeves | 4:23 PM | 8-6-2008

The reason its not a "myth" is because "American white people" have birthed it into fruition. This is the nation that brought forth "whiteness" over 400 hundred years ago and now anytime anyone mentions race, whites are the 1st to say, "It's not about race!" Wasn't it only 30 years ago when the expression, "I'm free, white and 21" was envogue. The people who invented the game are always talking about playing "the race card" when they are the only ones holding the deck. It is about race, but they are gutless.

Sent by ted mckim, Kansas City | 4:28 PM | 8-6-2008

I really disagree that the 'fist bump' is just an age-related issue. This is NOT something I ever see in my mostly white/asian city near San Francisco. The only people I see using that 'sympbol' are teens (NOT people in work clothes) and African-Americans. Does no one remember the shock on some of the anchors of "The View" TV show when Mrs. Obama said "This is how you have to say hello to me?" I love TOTN, but your female reporter in this segment is really, really out of the majority mainstream in this country. Obama may win, but he is not representing all of us (and I'm a very Liberal Dem.

Sent by Linda | 6:33 PM | 8-6-2008