Talk amongst yourself and your Facebook friends | Arkansas Blog

Talk amongst yourself and your Facebook friends



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Let's call this an open line.

But first, a couple notes:

*For those of you who can't get enough of Facebook, the Times is there for you. Now when you log-in to this site, you have the option of logging in via Facebook to see what articles and blog posts your friends have liked and shared. And on Facebook itself, we've got six pages ready for you to Like: The Arkansas Times page, which serves as a clearinghouse for everything we do here; the newly launched Arkansas Blog, Eye Candy and Arkansas Times Observer pages, all of which need your Facebook love; plus pages for Eat Arkansas and Rock Candy, both of which are inching towards 1,000 fans and need your help to get over the hump.

*I haven't had a chance to read it, but I'm confident enough in his abilities to recommend it blindly. Times contributor and lately our weekly movie critic Sam Eifling has a piece on Grantland today about the Calgary Stampede.

*As with most issues of race we report on, my media column on the Democrat-Gazette's use of racial information in its crime reporting inspired a a lot of back and forth in the comments. The story also got picked up a few different places on the web, including on a St. Louis Post-Dispatch blog, which used it as an opportunity to talk about its policy of not using race in its crime reporting. The Post-Dispatch blog item excerpts a great item from a former Poynter instructor who's now with NPR. Here's a snippet (that continues on the jump):

"....What, for example, does a Hispanic man look like? Is his skin dark brown? Reddish brown? Pale? Is his hair straight? Curly? Course? Fine? Does he have a flat, curved nose or is it narrow and straight? Telling the public that he's 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, with a blue shirt and blue jeans says something about the person's appearance. But what do you add to that picture when you say Latino?

"And what is black? It's the color of pitch. Yet, the word is used to describe people whose skin tones can cover just about every racial and ethnic group in the world, including white people. What does the word "black" add to the mental picture the public draws? How do you draw the lips? The eyes? The nose? What sort of hair does a black person have? What color skin does a black person have? The combinations are infinite.

"All racial and ethnic groups do share some common physical characteristics. Still, we don't see the phrase "Irish-looking man" in the newspaper, though red hair and pale skin are common Irish characteristics. Would a picture come to mind if a TV anchor said, "The suspect appeared to be Italian"? Couldn't many of us conjure an image if the police said they were looking for a middle-aged man described as "Jewish-looking."

"There are good reasons those descriptions never see the light of day. They generalize. They stereotype. And they require that everyone who hears the description has the same idea of what those folks look like. All Irish-Americans don't look alike. Why, then, accept a description that says a suspect was African-American?".....

"Too many newsrooms brag that they've solved the problem of racial identification by requiring other "distinguishing marks" before they'll allow race to be used as a descriptor. A scar on the cheek. A gold tooth. A tattoo. None of that addresses the myth that race describes how someone looks.

"Think about it this way: In order for everyone reading, watching, or listening to the story to conjure up the same image in their mind's eye, they must all share a common understanding of what a Latino person looks like. In other words, people who are Latino would have to look alike. Except for the scars, gold teeth, and tattoos.

"Here is an alternative: If journalists told their audience that the suspect was about 5-foot-8, about 165 pounds, with caramel-brown skin, wavy, dark brown hair about an inch long, thick eyebrows, a narrow nose, thick lips, and a light mustache, people could pick me from a lineup of men whose skin and face were different from mine. Nobody would need to know my race. It wouldn't matter if I was descended from Africans, spoke Spanish, worshipped Allah, lived on a reservation, or called a Hawaiian woman mother...

"Unless the story is specifically about race — the Jasper, Texas, case, for example — race has little descriptive value in a story. Colin Ferguson's murderous subway ride was about race. Tiger Woods' dispute with Fuzzy Zoeller was about race. The struggle of biracial people to be recognized on the Census is about race. A suspect description is about how a person looks."

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