New America Media forum on journalistic issues related to AsianWeek’s printing of hate speech

Update Sat March 3: New America Media’s own coverage of their event, Sandip Roy’s commentary, and a Chronicle article.

I just returned from attending this morning’s forum sponsored by New America Media in Chinatown. The event was billed as an opportunity for “ethnic media leaders [to] discuss the issue of journalistic responsibility in light of the AsianWeek columns and what we can do, individually and collectively, to repair the damage and improve coverage of each other’s communities.”

Vin Pan from CAA, Malcolm Yeung from ALC, and I attended and Aileen Hernandez from the Calif. Civil Rights Coalition was there, and Janice Lee from AAJA, just to name a few of the maybe 80 in the crowd.

It’s a success anytime people of color come together to discuss race and race relations between our communities. That definitely happened here. But today’s forum was supposed to focus on journalistic responsibility following AsianWeek’s printing of Eng’s hate speech. That wasn’t accomplished.

It took Vin Pan stepping up to the mic to make the point that if we do not hold AsianWeek and the editor responsible for printing the piece full accountable — in the editor’s case, removed — we set a corrosive precedent that we do not hold our own ethnic media to the same standards as we would if a mainstream media outlet were to do the same thing.

Raj Jaydeev of Silicon Valley De-Bug said it best: “Fiction can become reality as soon as it’s in print.”

Aileen mentioned to me after the end of the forum that this latest incident is part of much larger and more complicated problem. The 49ers racist video, the SFPD officers’ video, Eng’s column … are symptoms of something macro in scale. What that is specifically is something worth future discussion, analysis and action.

Finally, AsianWeek’s Ted Fang said at least twice that the paper “rejects racist views.” Funny how that sentiment wasn’t in the email response I received from editor-in-chief Samson Wong, nor the paper’s Monday statement — both saying that the printing of Eng’s column was part of their covering the diversity of Asian America. It’s only after tremendouse pressure from civil rights organizations, elected officials, their readership and the public that they reject only now what they should have rejected from the start.

– Keith Kamisugi

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