There are several types of stories that are difficult to cover as a journalist because of the thought that each editorial decision requires. This problem arises in covering cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault, for instance. Annenberg Media saw this challenge when David Carrera, a former top fundraiser for USC, was accused of sexual harassment. On the day we were covering this story, the only source we had was the information reported by the LA Times, as the university was releasing virtually no information. While writing the scripts for the show, we had to be incredibly deliberate in our language, as all we knew that Carrera was no longer employed by USC. We did not know if he resigned or was fired, but we took great care to make sure we were stating exactly what we knew and that the language we used did not suggest anything beyond those facts.
Representing minorities in stories is another area where journalists must also be very responsible in how they portray their subjects. Stories about race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on can of course be enlightening, informational, and interesting. But stories including these groups can also easily misrepresent them, if the proper editorial care is not taken.
This week, as lead producer, I was faced with a story where I had to make such editorial decisions. We were covering a gathering of Asian Americans who were holding a meeting to speak out against the punishment Houston Astros player Yuli Gurriel received after mocking Asian features during the World Series.
One of our reporters was doing a package on the response of the Asian American community to the incident, and the question was raised whether it was necessary to use the actual video of Gurriel making the gesture. We had to consider whether offensive content of that sort should have a place in our show and whether using it would be more harmful to our audience than it would be beneficial.
Ultimately we decided that, because of the permanent nature of the internet, Annenberg Media's digital platforms would be better off not using the video of the incident. Since the video could be found elsewhere and is not something we want to be spreading ourselves, it was decided that our digital team could go without showing it. However, we came to a different decision for TV.
For one, our shows are not shared like our social media, so we did not risk spreading the content in the same way. More importantly, however, we decided that it was of value to our viewers to show the incident within our show in order for them to see what the Asian American subjects of our story were reacting to. Had we not included the video, I believe their complaints would have seemed removed from what happened and not properly contextualized. While we would have been able to do the story without using the video, I think that showing it ultimately did more justice to the people whose story we were trying to tell.