Politico: Black journalists push media to cover ‘hyper-racial’ moment in politics

Politico, July 29, 2019: Black journalists push media to cover ‘hyper-racial’ moment in politics

The Associated Press earlier this year shifted a national race and ethnicity reporter to its 2020 election team, an acknowledgment that race has become a defining element of President Donald Trump’s campaigns.

That beat, assigned to reporter Errin Haines Whack, is fairly unusual among major news organizations. And media outlets’ approach to covering race is frustrating some prominent journalists of color at a time when Trump’s language — as he recently called a civil rights leader a “con man” and referring to a predominantly black district, which includes much of Baltimore, as a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess” this week — is threatening to define the campaign.

Some journalists of color are growing increasingly vocal in their push for media outlets to take race head-on in political coverage — and they are publicly highlighting the ways they say Trump’s words and the semantic debates over whether to call them “racist” weigh on them personally.

Tanzina Vega, who covered race for The New York Times and CNN and currently hosts, “The Takeaway,” wrote in late 2017 that one of the biggest media mistakes in the previous election “was underestimating the power of racist rhetoric” and noted “a disconnect between what journalists of color were seeing and what white reporters were seeing.”

Vega said “the leading voices” on race heading into the 2020 election are largely the same as they were in the last campaign. She said news organizations should be covering race on a more sustained basis, with reporters — and not only journalists of color — able to report on the issue effectively.

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