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7.23.2010

NABJ Statement on Coverage of Shirley Sherrod Incident


Statement from the National Association of Black Journalists on the Reaction of News Organizations Covering Shirley Sherrod

WASHINGTON, DC, (July 22, 2010)—Today, the National Association of Black Journalists issued the following statement in response to the reaction of media organizations covering former U.S. Department of Agriculture staffer Shirley Sherrod:

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is dismayed by the profound failure of media organizations in their rush to report on the allegedly racist remarks of former U.S. Department of Agriculture staffer Shirley Sherrod.

Because of the activist propaganda of conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart and the subsequent lack of due diligence on the part of pundits on the FOX News Channel and others to verify the authenticity of a tape with Sherrod's remarks on race, this veteran public servant was unjustly castigated and convicted as an unrepentant racist in the court of public opinion.

We expect better, and so do the millions of readers and viewers who rely on news organizations for accuracy before airing or publishing any material, especially those with potential negative consequences. This didn't happen and, as a result, Sherrod's decades-long reputation as a champion of equity and justice was tarnished in mere hours. The swift, decisive echo chamber of bad judgment from all involved, from cable networks to the White House, should be a lesson learned for us all.

To be sure, the 24/7 news cycle now requires all of us to sometimes move at a dizzying pace to report news, even when the circumstances are still developing. But those demands do not negate our responsibility as a public trust to get it right, each and every time.

Breitbart and those who went with the tape’s content without first checking its authenticity owe Sherrod — and America — an apology for creating yet another sad chapter in the long history of the explosive mix of media, race and politics in this country.

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An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation, with nearly 3,000 members, and provides educational, career development and support to black journalists worldwide.
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