LatinaLista — Anyone who subscribes to newspapers knows times are tough in newsrooms, of all sizes, across the country. Loss of advertising revenue means smaller staff, less diversity and the fewer remaining reporters turning out more copy on shorter deadlines.
Yet, a balanced news story shouldn’t be the sacrificial lamb in this new age of journalism when it comes to objectively reporting a news story — unlike an op-ed column or blog post where one-sided opinion prevails.
No, objective reporting is the hallmark of any newspaper that wants to sustain credibility among their readers and in journalistic circles.
So, it’s with great surprise that an article that appeared in the Phoenix Business Journal would be so completely off-balance that the insinuation the writer is trying to make is not only misleading but calls into question the integrity of the writer and the newspaper itself.
The article’s title, Drop in crime coincides with exodus of illegal immigrants, clearly tries to make the argument that undocumented immigrants were responsible for high crime levels in the Phoenix area.
The basis of the article was a report issued by the Washington-based, anti-undocumented immigrant organization Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The report was an analysis of Census data on the declining number of undocumented “less-educated” Latino immigrants. It made no reference to crime rates.
A reporter at the Arizona Republic also covered this same story, and to his credit didn’t try to falsely implicate undocumented immigrants with the downturn in Phoenix crime.
In fact, his story was much more balanced and cited sources who pointed out that the CIS study used a much more narrow segment of the undocumented population which skewered the numbers in making their case.
The Phoenix Business Journal reporter’s attempt to tie in undocumented immigrants with the high crime rate and not offer statistical evidence that clearly stated what percentage of crimes were committed by undocumented immigrants smells of yellow journalism — sensationalism to attract reader attention.
It’s a story that best suits a checkout stand tabloid rather than a newspaper striving to be a must-read for a city’s business elite.
Yet, after a little investigation, it’s not surprising that this happened. A quick review of the headlines of a couple of other articles with this same reporter’s byline: One-third of 46 million uninsured could be illegal immigrants and citizen children and Center for Immigration Studies: Border walls will protect environment reveals that he and the Center for Immigration Studies have a very cozy relationship.
In these other two articles, as in this one, the reporter relies only on the CIS as a definitive source. If the reporter doesn’t realize that the CIS is a right-leaning organization that favors less immigration to the United States, and their viewpoint needs to be balanced with an opposite source, then he and his editors are either very lazy, very gullible or don’t care about their readers’ trust.
Now, thanks to this reporter, readers of the Phoenix Business Journal will equate high crime with undocumented immigrants. Women will clutch their purses and families will make sure their car doors are locked whenever they see a dark-skinned Latino come nearby — because it’s hard to tell who is undocumented and who is not.
And the sad thing is there’s no need to. If this reporter had done just a little research, he would have found what criminologists have to say about crime and undocumented immigrants:
“If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population,” says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. “If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you’re likely in one of the country’s safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso–these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they’re some of the safest places in the country.”
Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso.
One of the signatories was RubÃ©n G. Rumbaut, a sociologist who studies immigration at the University of California, Irvine. Rumbaut recently presented a paper on immigration and crime to a Washington, D.C. conference sponsored by the Police Foundation.
Rumbaut writes via email, “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the same conclusion: Rates of crime and conviction for undocumented immigrants are far below those for the native born, and that is especially the case for violent crimes, including murder.”
Unless, the Phoenix Business Journal can publish a follow-up to this damaging article — it is already one of the most emailed articles on the site — and supply the proof that shows a direct correlation that undocumented immigrants in Phoenix are responsible for the high crime rate then it only makes sense that they print a retraction and an apology to their readers and to the local Latino community who has to pay for this sloppy reporting.
It’s the right thing to do.