LatinaLista — An interesting situation arose this morning in Dallas, Texas. It involved the city’s only corporate daily, The Dallas Morning News (TDMN). The paper published two opinion columns today about the likelihood of undocumented immigrants assimilating into U.S. society.
As you can imagine, each columnist took a different view. Nothing newsworthy there.
Yet, upon closer examination of the two columns, those who believe in a fair and balanced press were delivered a shocker that most would have never expected from Dallas’ award-winning daily, and which clearly shows that far from practicing balanced journalism, TDMN would rather look like Fox News — in print.
TDMN ran the two columns side-by-side— one written by nationally syndicated writer Linda Chavez subtitled “These families are closer to traditional that we realize” and the other written by a local conservative radio talk show host with the column title “Too many of them have shown no interest in assimilating.” The main headline of the columns was “Survey defies illegal immigrant stereotypes.”
The problem is not that these two columnists have a difference of opinion but that the local writer’s column wasn’t a column but a rebuttal to Ms. Chavez’s column. We know this because in his opening paragraph he specifically refers to Ms. Chavez.
A curious situation since that could only mean the local writer was given Ms. Chavez’s column before he wrote his — a bad move from a paper that touts itself as “Texas’ Leading Newspaper.”
Usually, newspapers don’t like to print rebuttals. The reason is simple — because there is always someone who wants the last word. In other words, the argument can go and on and on. That’s why it is a much more common practice for editors at newspapers to trim down rebuttals as Letters to the Editor.
Yet, for all apparent purposes, TDMN editorial editors actually went out of their way to commission this rebuttal. It defies justification.
By commissioning this rebuttal, they don’t give Ms. Chavez an opportunity to respond to her opponent’s comments and it gives him an unfair advantage in crafting his column.
It is painfully obvious that this newspaper has lost its balance on the immigration issue. If they were interested in presenting a balanced and fair argument then they would have only told the local writer the angle Ms. Chavez took and expected him to write his own piece.
In response to an email from Latina Lista regarding the usage of her column, Ms. Chavez wrote:
The DMN does carry my column, so they would have received it last Thursday from my syndicate. I agree it is unusual to have actually provided the article to another writer to rebut. They have often run my column with another taking a different position but I’ve never before known them to give the article to the other writer ahead of time.
Unfortunately, many members of the Dallas Latino community saw the writing on the wall by the city’s newspaper long before today.
Though Hispanics are the second-largest group in the city, after whites, their voices have been severely marginalized at TDMN. Hit by the same bad economy as every other newspaper in the country, the TDMN laid off a number of Latino/a reporters recently (enough for some journalists around the country to note that Hispanic representation took a severe hit) and there is not one editorial Hispanic writer representing the voice of the Latino community.
A local Dallas resident took it upon himself to ethnically break down the paper’s columnists. He found:
I went through the DMN’s website, and discovered 70 columnists from the sections “Local/News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Life/Travel, Opinion”
Here’s the breakdown. The facts speak for themselves.
60 Anglos, 85%
6 African American, 10%
2 Hispanic, 2.5 %
2 Asian American, 2.5 %
Of the specific sections
1 Asian American
1 African American
1 Asian American
Diversity at a newspaper is not just important, it’s imperative. It allows for a wider range of stories from a wider array of communities to be tapped and told. It allows for a different perspective to be represented in the newsroom when hard decisions are being made about what is culturally significant or sensitive to a particular group.
Not to mention, that if 36 percent of the city’s population is of a particular ethnicity and the local newspaper only reflects that in 2.5 percent of their columnists — the writers who are giving voice as a representative of their ethnic group — then it’s a big problem and explains, at least in this case, why this city’s newspaper is faring so badly among non-white readers.
It also explains why a paper that used to pride itself on high journalistic ethics would stoop so low as to print a rebuttal on an issue that is personal and resonates deeply with the majority minority of Dallas.
If The Dallas Morning News is “Texas’ Leading Newspaper,” then I guess the rumors are true that Texas plans to secede from the Union too.