Closet racism

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Coming soon to newsrooms and journalism schools is a new handbook penned by broadcast-news veteran Av Westin. It's designed as a primer on how to be fair to the public, but it has some truly startling quotes from a litany of top news executives, all of whom are identified at the back of the book (although the specific quotes aren't attributed).

The chapter on bias contains evidence of what Westin calls the "closet racism" that permeates newsrooms. Said one executive: "My bosses have essentially made it clear: 'We do not feature black people [as on-camera experts].' Period. I mean, it's said. They actually whisper it, 'Is she white?'"

Newsrooms are filled with "preconceived notions about race and ethnicity," writes Westin. "The conventional wisdom among many assignment editors is that white viewers will tune out if blacks or Latinos are featured in segments." Every business has its code words, he adds. "It's not good television" really means: "Don't use members of certain racial or economic groups as subjects."