The Washington-based National Association of Hispanic Journalists wants the media to be careful not to scapegoat Mexican immigrants in covering the possible swine flu pandemic.
"We have come to expect immigrant bashing from the usual suspects - commentators who use purposefully inflammatory rhetoric to seek attention and to suit their agenda. And they haven't disappointed, now using the swine flu as cause to decry immigration and immigrants," said the NAHJ Board in a statement. "But we trust that credible journalists will cover what is undeniably a big national story with more fairness and accuracy than we are hearing from these talking heads. We would ask that these stories be written as if facts did matter. Because they do."
The first question to the president at Wednesday night's press conference was whether he thought the borders to Mexico needed to be closed.
The group said the temptation in "more credible media"--it did not single out media on either end of the perceived credibility spectrum--would be to link Mexican immigrants with the spread of the disease in the U.S., the consequence of which it said could be "even more anger - and perhaps even more violence - against a community no more responsible for the spread of this ailment than U.S. tourists returning from scenic, balmy vacations."
The group said that immigrants are part of the story, but not in the "narrow fashion" currently being reported.
But NAHJ was looking beyond today's reporting to the possibility of a full-fledged pandemic. If that becomes the story, it said, "we ask simply that the news industry do its job. That would be covering the story, not in the breathless fashion of the talking heads, but as a story as needful of truth, fairness, accuracy and balance as any other important story. In fact, the bigger the story, the more it needs these attributes."
NAHJ represents more than 2,300 members in the broadcast, online, and print media.