Board members of the Rio Grande Chapter of SPJ were saddened to hear about the death of Bob Martin of KRQE News 13. Our deepest condolences go out to Bob’s colleagues, friends and family. Although many of us work as competitors, all journalists in New Mexico are part of our journalism family and we hope our friends at KRQE will reach out if they need support.
Our president, Sarah Gustavus, is available to help connect people: email@example.com
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the July/August issue of Quill magazine, the Society of Professional Journalists’ magazine, is a soliloquy that reduces women to their backsides.
This weekend, New Mexico journalist and SPJ member Marie C. Baca rightly pointed out that the image of a woman’s posterior used to illustrate this month’s “Training Day” feature about journalism training was a poor choice. As Baca put it in a letter to SPJ’s board: “We don’t get to see this woman’s face, she is simply an object, and the focal point of the cover photo is her butt.”
SPJ’s official response, in part (you can read it all here) was that the photo showed a woman in typical workout wear, and that “we are sorry some readers find it offensive.”
The non-apology “We’re sorry if you were offended” apology is neither helpful nor authentic, and in SPJ’s case, it’s damaging to our efforts to be an open and welcoming place for all journalists.
If you’re asking why we’re devoting this space to a stock image on an association magazine cover, here’s why: The message it sends matters.
Baca’s letter makes us think of a young woman journalist who might see image and have concerns but not be sure if she would be heard. Later, she may be a little less likely to stick her neck out and ask for a raise, as Baca noted, or advocate for a tough assignment.
And if journalism is covering itself this way, how are we covering our communities? We must do better than this.
Our profession and SPJ must consider the impact of the images and words we use in coverage. Heck, the responsibility to do that is enshrined in our ethics code: “Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.”
It’s an editor’s job to consider whether people who are different from her would see bias in the words and images she’s chosen – and then consult people who are different from her, to see if she’s right.
The SPJ Rio Grande board shares Baca’s concerns about the image and about SPJ’s unwillingness to admit that it made a poor choice.
We’re committed to being an open and welcoming place for all journalists, and to holding our own organization accountable when we see it fall short, as we’ve done here, by writing these words and sending them to SPJ’s board president.
Here’s a statement from SPJ Rio Grande president Laura Paskus, on behalf of the board:
Already in New Mexico, we have too few reporters trying to cover too many issues. And many are doing that on a salary that’s not sustainable, and in a job that’s not guaranteed or secure.
We’ve watched the disappearance of locally-owned newspapers. And we’ve watched corporations from out of state buy out newspapers and newsrooms. Neither of those have been good for the communities those papers serve. As out-of-state owners value profits above their employees and the communities they’re supposed to serve, all New Mexicans suffer.
Right now in New Mexico, we need more reporters covering the border. Not fewer. We also need more reporters covering oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin and the Permian Basin. We need more reporters covering WIPP and the proposed new facilities in southwestern New Mexico and west Texas.
In recent years, we’ve seen round after round of layoffs. And the latest announcements are disturbing, to say the very least. At this moment in history access to accurate information has perhaps never been more important.
Like most people, I read online newspapers and get my national and international news from media outlets outside the state. And I realize many people rely on cable television. But that access to more information about the nation and the globe can’t be at the expense of knowing what’s happening in our own neighborhoods and counties.
At a time when we need to know more — about one another, about what’s happening around us, and about how our governments operate — the news of these layoffs is very bad for all New Mexicans.