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New York Times reporter violates trust of undocumented immigrant in interview

LatinaLista — The job of a journalist is one that serious journalists hold in high regard because it deals with the public trust. It’s a two-way street.


Tonight, there has to be a group of undocumented immigrants wondering why they spoke to a New York Times reporter who came knocking on their apartment doors asking them to share their stories about how their work ethic has enabled them to have much more stable employment than others in the Big Apple.

According to the article:

Mexicans in New York have proved unusually adept at finding and keeping work. Of the city’s 10 largest immigrant groups, they have the highest rate of employment and are more likely to hold a job than New York’s native-born population, according to an analysis of the most recently available census data. They are even employed at a greater rate than Mexicans nationwide.

To flesh out this bit of trivia, the reporter went to one particular apartment building he identified through the context of the article as being home to industrious, hard-working undocumented immigrants.

Nothing different there. Many reporters across the country write about undocumented immigrants, even telling readers where they live. Yet, in this story, the reporter went too far.

In speaking with one man, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, the reporter decided to give a little more detailed description — he gave the guy’s apartment number.

From a journalistic standpoint, the question that needs to be asked is: Was it necessary to give the apt. number of this guy, who by all accounts from the story is a hard worker? What value did it add for the reader? Was it information that was vital for the telling of this particular story?

Common sense will say no. Unfortunately, the revelation of what is really delicate information for someone who only wants to use his first name is a violation of his trust with the reporter and journalists in general.

Given the fact that the reader is to infer from the article that this man is undocumented then this revelation has the potential to be extremely harmful for this family.

The New York Times reporter’s actions make it difficult for other reporters to gain the trust of these immigrants so that their experiences and observations can be told. Their experiences may include being victimized by exploitive employers, abusers, scam artists preying on them and others, etc.

When dealing with an undocumented population, the job of the journalist is not to be an agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — but uphold the public trust — regardless of citizenship status.

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