While in college, I was a TV news intern at WNAC, now WHDH in Boston. Later, I
was a full-fledged TV professional and worked as a 20-something reporter at KOLO
in Reno, KXAS in Dallas, and KRON and KPIX in San Francisco.
I knew the life Alison Parker and Adam Ward were embarking on.
I know what it’s like when the world revolves around “the station.”
As I saw the lives of Parker and Ward being reported all day Wednesday, I felt
like they were fellow travelers on the media path. I was horrified to see their
young careers end in a barrage of bullets.
But I also knew the path of Vester Flanagan (a/k/a Bryce Williams), born in the
Bay Area like me, who also worked at KPIX (I was a young investigative producer
I felt his pain too.
I know how hard it was to make it in a business when you’re a person of color in
a mostly white industry. I know what it’s like to be the only Asian American on
the air, at a given station or newsroom in the ’70s and ’80s. The first Asian
American to sit in the host’s chair at NPR’s Washington studios in 1989.
I just went to an Asian American Journalists Association convention and was
reminded of it all. I saw young people moving up, less young people hanging on,
and older people who have just left the business.
Me, I created my own path. When things didn’t always work out, I didn’t take the
Defcon option. I didn’t sue anyone for discrimination or seek revenge to harm
I just kept finding a way to be a journalist.
Clearly, Flanagan was in the throes of mental illness and needed help. When you
call the Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui “my boy,” as Flanagan did in his
writings, you have problems.
I just wish he had gotten help more easily than he got the gun he used to kill
the first journalists in America since 2007.
Sadly, I knew that 2007 victim even better than Parker, Ward, or Flanagan.
Chauncey Bailey, the editor of the Oakland Post, was shot dead August 2, 2007,
by a person connected to a story Bailey was working on. Ironically, I heard the
news while attending an AAJA convention that year.
Chauncey was a colleague in the ethnic media in California and often appeared on
my “Meet the Press” roundtable program of ethnic journalists that aired
throughout the state.
I didn’t initially connect Chauncey’s death with the Virginia shootings. Parker
and Ward were doing a live shot on a garden-variety feature story with a Chamber
of Commerce person.
Chauncey was doing an investigative report on a Muslim bakery.
But it doesn’t matter. A dead journalist is a silenced journalist.
In places like the Philippines, journalists are killed all the time. The
Committee to Protect Journalists
reports that 77 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1992.
It’s not supposed to happen in America, where the First Amendment gives us all
the license–the right–to speak and report.
But there have been 5 journalists killed in the U.S. since 1992. That number
went up 40 percent just on Wednesday.
JORGE RAMOS AND DONALD TRUMP
This doesn’t mean that journalists aren’t “killed” or silenced in other ways
If the Parker and Ward deaths didn’t dominate the news Wednesday, the silencing
of Univision’s Jorge Ramos would have.
If you saw the outburst of Donald Trump at his own news conference, then you saw
a public display of racism for which he has yet to apologize.
While decorum is to be respected, the need to get the news is more so. When
journalists are compliant and “on bended knee” waiting for their handout from a
newsmaker, it takes courage to do what Ramos did.
He wanted to know about Donald Trump’s immigration plan, the details of which
Trump has yet to share. That’s the news. Ramos was well within his right to ask
the question, and to demand an answer first.
And whomever Trump called on first should have been ready to defer. Because the
immigration question was the most newsy thing that Trump could have shared, if
he was willing to talk and not dodge the question.
Instead of showing grace and answering Ramos head on, Trump insisted on bullying
and shouting at Ramos, as if the reporter were a hired hand on “Celebrity
“Sit down,” Trump said with condescension, “Sit down. Sit down.”
And when Ramos insisted on his right as a journalist, Trump stood bully strong.
“No, you don’t, you haven’t been called,” Trump said. And then he got personal
and racist. “Go back to Univision.”
He could have said, “Shut up brown man, go home.” Or the more politically
correct, “Go home person of color, you don’t count.”
But then The Donald has made his feelings about political correctness very
apparent. He doesn’t believe in it. Unless the correctness suits him and is
defined by him–such as calling on handpicked compliant reporters at his whim and
scolding all those who dare to challenge him.
What really drew my ire was seeing Ramos being shoved, touched, and handled by
one of Trump’s henchmen.
That’s a no-no.
It gave me chills to see it.
That’s one step toward Roanoke. Or Chauncey Bailey.
As a reporter, I’ve talked to high ranking newsmakers on more than one occasion
and have been told to shut up and get out. I’ve had my mike turned off. I’ve
been physically taken by the collar and shown the door. When that happened, I
was just stunned.
That’s why we have a First Amendment.
So in this one week alone, we have Trump thumbing his nose at Ramos and the
First Amendment, and then with his anti-birthright citizenship ideas, dissing
the 14th. There are 25 more amendments to the Constitution he can trample on.
The GOP already has a problem with blacks. The Ramos incident halts any thought
of attracting Latinos. And Asian Americans? All the anchor baby talk
by Trump and Jeb Bush this week, especially with Jeb saying it was really “Asian
people” he was talking about, energizes the same coalition that put Obama in for
Both Trump and Bush have mentioned “political correctness” at the core of the
pushback they’re getting.
Recently, The Atlantic‘s Caitlin Flanagan
did a piece suggesting that the reason we’re seeing a heightened sensitivity is
due to a generation of identity politics taking hold.
And so what? What would be better? A rising majority that stays silent and says
nothing? Compliant ethnic journalists who fail to represent their viewers and
readers and ask softball questions of white candidates who want to be
policymakers in a new America?
What we’re seeing isn’t political correctness defined by identity politi cs.
What we’re seeing is political awareness of large groups that until now were not
part of the equation. They were used to their own silence. And so were all the
people in power.
Now, however, these groups have emerged and must be addressed.
They are empowering Jorge Ramos and other journalists of color to ask different
questions from the white mainstream press. Ramos and others who have fought to
have their voices heard are reporters who know the importance of getting the
right question answered once they get a foot in the door.
Ramos ultimately got some answers out of Trump when The Donald let him back in.
But people better get used to it.
It’s a different America, and it has nothing to do with political correctness
and everything to do with political inclusion.
If you don’t like it, expect a furious debate.
That’s also thanks to the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.