“Two Northern Arapaho men charged in the beating death of John Michael Crispin III were sentenced to prison during separate hearings Monday at the Fremont County Courthouse in Lander.”
That was the first sentence of a front page story today in The (Riverton) Ranger. It makes us wonder what the paper would have printed if the perpetrators had been black. Perhaps: “Two African-American men charged in the beating death of . . .” What if they were Jewish?
You get our point. It is bad form for a general circulation newspaper in the year 2012 to print the tribal affiliation or race identification of a criminal perpetrator when it serves no journalistic purpose. Unfortunately, some Fremont County news outlets seem oblivious to this concept.
When we pointed out the problem here, for example, the reporter provided, in part, this response: “I guess you could argue that folks on the reservation, and the many close by non reservation communities might be curious as to which tribe someone in the news is affliated [sic] with.”
We think journalists should apply a different standard, one that comports with the ethical and professional obligations to refrain from needlessly reinforcing stereotypes or inflaming race-based prejudices. Some Fremont County news outlets need to work harder to meet these obligations.
(There are, by the way, legitimate reasons to identify story subjects by race and tribal affiliation. We’ll leave that discussion for another day.)