Journalistic Neutrality in Rhode Island

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When a Black Lives Matter protester kicked the camera of the ABC6 news team in Providence, Shannon Hegy of WPRI (channel 12) tweeted:

Our job is to not be on anyone’s side.

Our job is to be neutral.

Our job is to give coverage to BOTH sides.

I’m so disgusted and disheartened by this.

The responses came in two waves.  The first was to downplay the protester’s action and to insist that the news media shouldn’t be neutral or, more Orwellian, that neutrality means being on the radicals’ side.  The second wave noted that the news media hasn’t been neutral, as evidenced (as I pointed out) by their silence about protesters’ much-more-intimidating behavior toward local talk radio host John DePetro, including an effort to blind him.

Hegy’s tweet brings to mind a recent Twitter proclamation from another Rhode Island television journalist, Lindsay Iadeluca:

Social justice isn’t a personal view. It’s human decency.

Iadeluca’s statement is in line with those who responded to Hegy by suggesting “neutrality” actually required agreement with their ideological side.  To them, this isn’t a question of competing beliefs about what human decency requires.  In their view, their side is decent, and the other side doesn’t count.  It’s not “a personal view.”  It’s just reality.

An immediate consequence of this view of the world can be found up-thread from Iadeluca’s tweet, where her NBC10 colleague, Connor Cyrus, shared a meme providing “examples of racial gaslighting” — i.e., statements meant to disguise racism and make those who oppose it feel like they’re going crazy:

  • “Why does everything always have to be about race with you?”
  • “What I said/did wasn’t racist.”
  • “Racism doesn’t exist anymore.”
  • “It was just a joke, calm down.”
  • “Just to play devil’s advocate here…”
  • “If you protested/said it peacefully, maybe people would listen.”
  • “Are you sure that’s what happened?”
  • “In my opinion, it wasn’t racist because…”

In short, simply defending yourself as not racist is racist.  Explaining why something wasn’t racist… is racist.  And yes, seriously, on a television journalist’s list of gaslighting phrases is, “Are you sure that’s what happened?”

Once upon a time, that question was known as journalism.  Now, a journalist says it is racist to ask it, and another insists his view is simple, objective “human decency.”

Whatever it may be, viewers should adjust their expectations for these stations’ ability to convey reality.