By Natasha Ishak
BOSTON –Â Media organizations must increase workplace diversity and take other measures to prevent racism from compromising news coverage, media executives and journalists said during a panel at the downtown Boston Public Library earlier this month.
The April 12 event organized by the Asian American Journalists Association — in partnership with the Boston Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists New England — examined how Boston media could better represent minorities.
â€œThe work to improve and make progress is really done day to day, hour by hour, hire by hire,â€ said Princell Hair, senior vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Boston.
The panel came after WEEI sports radio station host Christian Fauria used a racist Asian accent to mock high-profile sports agent Don Yee, who represents New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, during a broadcast in February.
Fauria, who apologized, was suspended for five days following the incident and theÂ radio station shut down its on-air programming so employees could participate in mandatory sensitivity training.
WEEI Boston Senior Vice President and Market Manager Mark Hannon, who participated in the panel, called Fauria’s behavior â€œignorantâ€ and â€œdeplorable.â€ Â
â€œWeâ€™re an entertainment medium, weâ€™re not a journalistic enterprise,â€ he said. â€œBut that doesnâ€™t suggest that we donâ€™t have boundaries.”
Hannon added: â€œRatings are important. Revenues follow ratings. Weâ€™re in the business of those two things. But we canâ€™t do that at the cost of what is right.â€
Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung said the WEEI incident showed the importance of holding the media accountable for its coverage of minorities.
The incident â€œsends this message that we are foreign. That Asian Americans, by the way we look — no matter if we were born here — will never be accepted,â€ she said.
Leung said diversity in the newsroom helps organizations deepen their coverage of minority communities.
â€œWe only cover them when bad things happen. We only go to Mattapan when thereâ€™s a crime, and so the rest of the world — and Boston — thinks that Mattapan is crime-ridden. But Mattapan is more than just crime and homicides,â€ Leung said, referring to a Boston neighborhood with a vibrant Caribbean and African immigrant population.
Richard ChacÃ³n, executive director of news content at WBUR, believes reporters Â can prevent incidents of racism in their coverage by getting out of their comfort zones.
â€œI think we just need to be more mindful that we get out of that bubble more often,” he said. “Itâ€™s only in doing that that weâ€™re really going to expose ourselves to the things that we donâ€™t know.”
He added that media organizations have a responsibility to contribute to the dialogue on race issues, because â€œall of us are part of the public conversation.â€
For journalists of color, contributing to the public conversation on race also sometimes means working two jobs at once, said WBUR host Callie Crossley, who moderated the panel that evening.
â€œYouâ€™re going to work the job where youâ€™re reporting whatever youâ€™re reporting, and then youâ€™reÂ going to work the one where you got to be watching about these kinds of thingsÂ because everybody doesnâ€™t see it,â€ she said, referring to the WEEI incident.
Organizations like the Asian American Journalists Association play an important role in this regard, added Hair, of NBC.
â€œI think those organizations are where the conversation keeps going,” he said.”Theyâ€™re the ones charged with coming up with solutions once these people are held accountable.”
A livestream recording of the one-hour panel at WGBHâ€™s satellite station at the Boston PublicÂ Library can be found on the WGBH News Facebook page.Â