Monday, July 28, 2008

Putting away our pom-poms

The Associated Press wanted to know if journalists of color could put away their pom-poms and "Barack Star" T-shirts long enough to show some objectivity (a mostly elusive concept) during Obama's speech at the UNITY convention on Sunday.

To my deep regret, I had to leave Chicago a few hours before Obama addressed the crowd of about 2,000 at the convention. But watching the speech on CNN later in the day revealed that there were indeed some moments of applause and supportive laughter during Barack's speech.

Excuse me, but is this some sort of problem?

First off, we have to accept the somewhat offensive idea that most (if not all) journalists of color are in the tank for Barack. As Matthew Yglesias writes, Michelle Malkin - to name at least one - is assuredly no Obama supporter.

Secondly, the suggestion that minority journalists need to "behave," according to CNN's Tonju Francois, is a demeaning one. This essentially implies that journalists of color might be willing to check their professionalism at the door, unlike their white counterparts with John McCain. I can remember no such concerns when McCain hosted a barbecue at his Arizona home for reporters (most of them white) during a break in the primary campaign.

Finally, like me, most of the convention attendees were figuratively off the clock. I had no plans to cover the speech or submit a story on the event. I would have been there as an interested observer, someone "recruited from the human race," as Leonard Pitts told the AP.

Is it not possible to own some personal political beliefs and be a journalist? Objectivity is a myth; fairness is the goal. I don't have a problem with a few cheers during downtime as long as everyone agrees to play nice when the whistles are blown.

I have a lot of respect for the AP's Jesse Washington, who is apparently already deep into his new assignment as race and ethnicity writer. But this offering, as well as the creation of a beat dedicated to issues that should be universal, worries me as we look forward this fall.

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