The Front Page: Double standards

It’s Friday, March 11th.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has prompted many American journalists to make an unexpected about-face — one that could prompt existential reflection about the industry’s untenable relationship with objectivity, if they let it. 

As the war enters its third week, it’s become common to see American journalists show their overt support and sympathy for the people of Ukraine. CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and individual journalists have shared ways viewers can support Ukraine, from donating to relief organizations to sharing on-the-ground services via social media. 

That journalists are, in clear terms, directly acknowledging and condemning the violence Russia has impressed on the people of Ukraine is a welcome development, but it has left some wondering why expressions of outrage and solidarity following similar transgressions — both domestic and international — have been previously discouraged by industry leaders.

Malak Silmi, a reporter at the San Antonio Express-News, articulated the double-standard plainly

“I’m honestly just perplexed because I 100% stand with the truth and recognize the injustice happening in Ukraine, but what I know is that as a journalist I will be biased/not credible if I were to publicly do the same with Palestine or Syria — countries that have been resisting occupation/war for years.”

Moreover, the coverage exposes stark gaps in the language journalists employ when reporting on human rights abuses.

The New York Times commends antiwar protests in Russia as “remarkable display[s] of defiance,” yet published an infamous op-ed in 2020 which called for military action against “rioters” and continues to promote increased policing.

And, as the Nation’s Mohammed El-Kurd notes, some legacy media have appropriately reported a Russian occupation, but rarely extend the same definition to Palestine.

The war in Ukraine has exposed the imprecise, often contradictory, standards that American journalists use to adjudicate the framing of their coverage. This is not to say that there are obvious boundaries to these rules, but if journalists are unable to reckon with the limitations of their own biases and make a concerted effort to address them in clear and concrete ways, we risk losing credibility, in the eyes of both the public and our peers.

This issue is by Holly Rosewood, with editing from Curtis Yee.


A Bit More Media

Q&A: Jamal Rayyis — Last month, the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) released a statement condemning racist coverage of the Ukraine crisis. The Objective’s deputy editor Janelle Salanga spoke with Jamal Rayyis, AMEJA’s vice president, about the statement, “ahistorical” coverage, and double standards within the industry.

Gizmodo Union reaches tentative deal — Following a four-day, open-ended strike, G/O Media management has agreed to a fair contract with the GMG Union. The tentative agreement includes increased salary minimums, improved healthcare, and stronger editorial guidelines. Next, the deal heads to the WGAE council and members for approval.

Dallas Free Press — In a Q&A with the Institute for Nonprofit News, Cicero Independiente co-founder and development coordinator Irene Romulo shares how the newsroom serves Latinx, bilingual readers by publishing stories in English and Spanish, hosting community events, and hiring young people to do their own reporting. 

The problems with the New York Times’ police reporting — On Sunday, the Times published a piece about policing in the U.S. arguing that society shouldn’t choose between funding law enforcement or reform — both should be pursued. As Alec Karakatsanis points out, the article demonstrates (once again) how bothsidesism can have serious consequences, especially when it comes to a “life and death issue.” 

The remaining “reckoning” — What happened to the promises newsrooms made after George Floyd’s murder? Objective board member Hanaa’ Tameez spoke with journalists who were hired to fill positions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion to see what has and hasn’t changed. Ultimately, it takes more than a single initiative or new hire to change decades of racism. Read more in Nieman Lab.

Ukraine-Russia Therapy Relief Fund — U.S. journalists who are currently based in Ukraine or have family in the country and need mental health support are invited to apply for funding that can be used for therapy or medications. If you’re able, you can donate to the fund here. Money will be distributed after $5,000 is raised.


Stay Up To Date 

4 days until … The ‘When is it Libelous to Call Someone a Racist?’ Workshop from the Ida B. Wells Society. This event is open to society members — if you’re not a current member, you can join for free

4 days until … Tips and Tools from Women Investigators, a Global Investigative Journalism Network webinar. Panelists will discuss story ideas, common challenges, and their experiences as investigative journalists.  

4 days until … Solutions Journalism 101 Webinar. Register for this training if you’re interested in learning about key steps in solutions journalism and the organization’s Solutions Story Tracker. 

5 days until … AAPI Voices Open House. The Colorado News Collaborative and Colorado Media Project present this free launch event focused on portrayals of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the media.

5 days until … Opening access: How to push back on restrictive communication policies in education (and beyond). This webinar unpacks obstacles to covering public schools, and tips for overcoming said challenges.


A few more resources

For your portfolio website: If you identify as a journalist with a background historically underrepresented in journalism, Authory will provide you with a free one-year account to back up your articles (a $96 value). 

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian Pacific AmericaNAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook 

Our stories are funded by readers like you. 

The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.

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