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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

#99 For immediate release
Contact:Judy Gerber (415) 398-8224 or Ted DeAdwyler Phone: 415/338-1665

The Affirmative Action Debate- Is the Media Getting it Right?

SAN FRANCISCO--June 30, 1999--Affirmative action-it's not over yet, despite a dramatic New York Times Magazine headline trumpeting its demise.

The media has had its share of hits and misses covering the hot topic of affirmative action, according to the latest edition of the News Watch journal, published by San Francisco State University's Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism.

This special edition shows that the worst myths, rumors and scapegoats in the old news stories on affirmative action continue to be repeated in new news stories about the nation's steadily growing diversity. One of the media's biggest failures in covering affirmative action was a lack of context in many stories, author Robert Entman points out in his article titled "The Color Game; How the Media Play the Race Card in Affirmative Action Coverage and Stack the Deck Against Rational Debate."

Entman says affirmative action coverage consistently misleads Americans by posing the issue "in black and white terms that contradict reality." Entman writes, "In truth, conflicts of interest over these policies do not arise mainly between whites and African Americans. There is far more common ground than the folks who craft the news have suggested."

Such coverage might have contributed to opposition to affirmative action, he said.

On the other hand, another article praised the coverage of affirmative action and Washington state's Initiative 200 by the Seattle Times. The initiative, similar to California's Prop. 209, called for the state of Washington to end "racial preference" policies. Voters approved it by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.

"The Seattle Times made a good deal of history on its own with saturation coverage, groundbreaking investigative reporting (both sides quoted the Times' research to prove points), not to mention unprecedented political advertising (the Times publisher ran his own ads opposing I-200 in the paper)," educator Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte wrote.

The News Watch editors say they hope that the lessons learned from covering such a controversial topic can be applied to other contentious issues. "Our goal is to help people get a better understanding of what went wrong in order to do a better job the next time around," says Judy Gerber, journal coeditor and project co-director. "This special edition of News Watch shows affirmative action is still very much alive and many journalists are still on the case."

Other voices included in the News Watch journal:
*Ward Connerly, UC regent opposed to affirmative action
*Connie Rice, lawyer and civil rights advocate
*Lydia Chavez, author of "The Color Bind: California's Battle to End Affirmative Action"
*Derek Bok, coauthor of "The Shape of the River"
*Glynn Custred, coauthor of Proposition 209
*Joel Dreyfuss, author of "The Bakke Case: The Politics of Inequality."
*Ruben Navarrette, columnist for the Arizona Republic
*Eric Liu, author of "The Accidental Asian"
*Steven Holmes, NY Times reporter
*Gilbert Bailon, Dallas Morning News editor
*Suzan Harjo, Native American writer

Other News Outlets Discussed in this Issue:
* New York Times
*Washington Post
*Los Angeles Times
*USA Today
*NBC Nightly News
*CBS Evening News
*Christian Science Monitor
*Dallas Morning News
*Houston Chronicle
*Wall Street Journal
*Austin American Statesman
*Chicago Sun Times

This special edition of the News Watch journal was produced in conjunction with UNITY '99, a gathering of journalists of color from the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.

Note to editors: News Watch coeditors Judy Gerber and Angela Noel will be available to discuss the affirmative action issue at the Unity '99 convention briefing Thursday, July 8 at 9 a.m. in Seattle.

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