Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Journalists Hopeful That Unity Can Help Tear Away Stereotypes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Journalists Hopeful That Unity Can Help Tear Away Stereotypes

Article excerpt

WHEN 6,000 JOURNALISTS of color got together in Atlanta last week to discuss our individual problems and goals, we found out something we had suspected: We have a lot in common.

A joint conference called Unity '94 brought together four groups - the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association. For the first time, the four combined their annual meetings. The gathering was the largest conference of journalists of color ever held.

Among problems expressed by ethnic journalists from across the country was the difficulty caused by media stereotyping. Participants watched a videotape that featured stereotypes that Americans have been subjected to in the entertainment media: the Native Americans who were portrayed as savages who were apparently unfamiliar with the word "the"; Latinos were shown as lazy people with nasal voices; blacks were shown as buffoons who loved to sing and dance for the entertainment of whites; and Asians were pictured as individuals whose every other word was "ah-so" and who used the prefix "honorable" before the name of anyone.

And although those stereotypes are largely gone, the journalists have noted, new ones have popped up in their places. Asian-Americans, for example, are often described as the "model minority," people who are very smart, exotic and who make lots of money.

At one session, Tritia Toyota of Los Angeles' KCBS-TV said "Asian-Americans can't be simplified, just as no other group can be simplified, but that's what we in the media do in 10- or 20-second newsbites."

Gary Fife, a Native American reporter with KSKA radio news in Anchorage, Alaska, agreed with Toyota. "There are more than three tribes in this country," he said. "And we are not just colorful dancers. We are the first Americans, with a special relationship to this country. But most Americans know more about our past and our ancestors than they do today. We are a diverse group of cultures."

Many ethnic journalists spoke of how others were often unable to get beyond their race and how that had caused embarrassing moments. …

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