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Asian American Journalists Association – Do not mention ethnicity

April 17th, 2007 . by Matt

The Asian American Journalists Association has urged that the race/ethnicity of the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre not be mentioned. Call me cynical but somehow I doubt that the AAJA was making similar calls when incidents involved people of other races.

Media Advisory: Coverage on Virginia Tech Shooting Incident, April 16, 2007FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Janice Lee, 415-346-2051, [email protected]

SAN FRANCISCO (April 16, 2007)—Like the rest of the nation, we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) are stunned at the news of today’s shooting at Virginia Tech. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends as they cope with this horrific incident.

As coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting continues to unfold, AAJA urges all media to avoid using racial identifiers unless there is a compelling or germane reason. There is no evidence at this early point that the race or ethnicity of the suspected gunman has anything to do with the incident, and to include such mention serves only to unfairly portray an entire people.

The effect of mentioning race can be powerfully harmful. It can subject people to unfair treatment based simply on skin color and heritage.

We further remind members of the media that the standards of news reporting should be universal and applied equally no matter the platform or medium, including blogs.

We at AAJA, representing approximately 2,000 reporters, editors, photographers and executives in the industry, encourage journalists to refer to style and reference books, both within their own shop as well as AAJA’s at http://www.aaja.org/resources/apa_handbook/.

We also invite those with concerns or questions to contact AAJA as a resource for issues of fair and accurate coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. AAJA’s national office is at (415) 346-2051, [email protected], www.aaja.org.

About AAJA

The Asian American Journalists Association is a non-profit professional and educational organization with approximately 2,000 members across the United States and in Asia. Founded in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry. AAJA’s mission is to encourage Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to enter the ranks of journalism, to work for fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs, and to increase the number of AAPI journalists and news managers in the industry. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY Journalists of Color, along with the Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. For more information, visit www.aaja.org.

25 Responses to “Asian American Journalists Association – Do not mention ethnicity”

  1. comment number 1 by: dogbert

    The hypocrisy is incredible.

    Had it been a white shooter, there would be no such calls.

    Shit like this makes me angrier than the shooting itself.

  2. comment number 2 by: demo21

    Evil knows no ethnical or racial bounds. And, of course, black gang members taking out crowds of people with uzis never seems to get categorized the same way at shootings like the one at VA Tech.

    The only thing that needs to be figured out is how to make guys like this be room temperature as quickly as possible to help save more lives.

    Do what must be done. Defend yourselves.

  3. comment number 3 by: jion999

    When a soldier of USFK rapes Korean woman, how does Korean media report about this? They would report as if it is the crime of USFK itself in spite of so many incidents of rape by Korean men.
    Now, Koreans are trying to pretend to be a victim again.
    Korean is a victim of racism and discrimination against Koreans because of crazy “Asian American” student in VT.

  4. comment number 4 by: kjeff


    Now, Koreans are trying to pretend to be a victim again. Korean is a victim of racism and discrimination against Koreans because of crazy “Asian American” student in VT.

    If there is, and my suspicion is there will be some racisms against Koreans/Korean-Americans in the U.S., the victims will not be limited to Korean ethnics, they will include all Asian-Americans. I doubt, that they will care about our differences in shade of ‘yellow’, think about that…

  5. comment number 5 by: GarlicBreath

    Why do they call themselves the Asian American Journalists Association, if they don’t want asians (koreans) identified. “janice” LEE is just upset that Koreans are identified. If the shooter was Black she would rejoice.

  6. comment number 6 by: Aussieman

    You ARE cynical. Of course this association is going to make such a claim in order to protect its own people. Ethnic groups always take activist stances when an event or policy jeoperdizes their own well being. The world functions on self interest. You act like this is something new. Do you expect Asians or Koreans for that matter to take an activist stance for everybody in the world, and speak out on everybody else’s behalf? Those are some high expectations that many nations fall short in meeting. Of course this kind of article would bother you, because any kind of argument to protect Koreans is in direct opposition to your personal agenda to defame them. You’re a funny character, Matt. You sure you’re not going to purchase a couple of guns and shoot up 32 Koreans in Sydney? I sure hope not, then I and the rest of your website’s patrons would bear the guilt in telling CNN that nobody took real action against your red flag behavior. Peace out, Psycho.

  7. comment number 7 by: lostinube

    “The effect of mentioning race can be powerfully harmful. It can subject people to unfair treatment based simply on skin color and heritage.”
    They don’t want people (namely Americans) to jump to conclusions or start harassing people just because they are Asian.
    Look at the guy whose livejournal got posted. He received death threats (why people were sending death threats to a person who was supposed to be dead I don’t know) all because he “fit the profile.” Then there’s stuff like this: http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2007/04/the_chinese_stu.html
    Asians are a minority in the United States and the US right now is in a mind-set where hatred towards those different from you can thrive (when I say thrive I mean that those who hate can create a foothold for themselves, not that everyone is a racist). This is not the same as say the Korean or Japanese government denying something or telling people what to say. These journalists want people like themselves to be treated fairly and responsibly.
    Self-interest? Yes, it is. But unfortunately, with the way the world is these days, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one will do it for you.
    Also, why do you have this tagged under “Scams”?

  8. comment number 8 by: James

    I think they’d have a reasonable argument if he was born in the US and was a citizen, but the fact that he is technically a foreigner makes the situation a bit different. I don’t think his nationality should be the focal point of reporting on him, but failing to mention that he spent the first 1/3 of his life as a Korean in Korea and that he wasn’t a citizen of the United States when they’re reporting every other detail about them they can find would be a pretty thing to overlook.

  9. comment number 9 by: T_K


    Ethnic groups always take activist stances when an event or policy jeoperdizes their own well being.

    Is it wrong to criticise this?

  10. comment number 10 by: James

    would be a pretty big thing to overlook, that is.

  11. comment number 11 by: jion999

    In Japan, when Korean Japanese commits a crime, most of Japanese papers report his Japanese name only, not his Korean name because the organizations of Koreans usually protest Japanese media that it is racism to report Korean name.
    But if Korean Japanese makes a positive performance, it is broadcasted that he is a Korean. Sometimes, even famous Japanese is reported as a Korean by Korean media without evidences.
    The decision of AAJA reminds us of the usual technique of Koreans.

  12. comment number 12 by: lostinube

    I think the reaction of the Asian American community is that they don’t want to go through what happened to some people after 9-11, namely harassment simply because they are of the same ethnicity of someone who has done something bad. And frankly, to someone who isn’t familiar with Asians, how do they know who is born and bred in America and who is an immigrant? Most people have been referring to Cho as a 1.5, somewhere between immigrant and a natural born American. And they’re not saying DON’T mention ethnicity. They’re saying to mention it if they have a good reason to. I don’t think they mind that papers say he’s South Korean but they don’t want the media to start applying racial stereotypes or assume things just because he’s South Korean.
    If that’s what Korea does, that’s what Korea does. If you can prove that the AAJA does the same thing with regular consistency and flip-flops depending on the positives and negatives of the situation then by all means go ahead with your criticism.

  13. comment number 13 by: SuikaDorobo

    The effect of mentioning race can be powerfully harmful. It can subject people to unfair treatment based simply on skin color and heritage.

    If so, shouldn’t they first pay more attentioin to the benefit of the rest of Asian Americans lumped together with Korean ones? They’re making the same mistake as some of the Japanese journalism do with regard to zainichi crimes.

  14. comment number 14 by: jion999


    Read my comment again.
    I wrote, “The decision of AAJA reminds us of the usual technique of Koreans.”
    Everybody is not sure about the background of the decision of AAJA.
    But when the other national committed crimes in US before, there was no such kind of restrictions not to mention the nationality of the perp at all.
    After they found the perp is a Korean, they try to distort the story from “the crime of a Korean” to “the crime of an Asian American” or “the crime of an American”.
    I can understand their idea. But when I remember about the attitude of Koreans who criticize Americans because of armor car accident in Korea, or criticize Japanese because of the history long long ago, I can’t help feeling typical double-standard of Koreans.

  15. comment number 15 by: jion999

    Oh, the organization of Korean American decided to stop criticizing Japanese for a whole because of the massacre committed by a Korean.


  16. comment number 16 by: lostinube

    Fair enough. I meant no offense and I understand that you may see similarities where I don’t, especially since you are more familiar with the way the Korean media works than I.
    Can you give us the name of which organization is being mentioned in the asahi article?

  17. comment number 17 by: Matt

    lostinube, you are a reasonable guy, and I think I will enjoy talking to you.

    In this case, I think the AAJA is being unjustified. Even if there is no current information that may make his nationality important (and in his case we really are talking about nationality, not nationality as a code word for race), restricting the flow of information may prevent “germane” facts from coming out. Quite simply the people have a right to know and as long as the AAJA thinks they do not, then I am going to stand against them.

    Another thing. Look at all the articles in the news about Koreans “fearing a backlash”. It has become cliche for minorities to fear a backlash that never actually comes. Think of 9/11 – despite what some people say, there were actually very few incidents against Arab Americans. There is no media or anyone else whipping up anti-Korean hatred anywhere because of this. I think there is a significant element of projection in this, and that Korean Americans fear a backlash because they know what they would do in the same situation. Have there been any reports of a backlash against Koreans? The answer is no. Will the AAJA take a stand against this inaccurate reporting that is about Asian Americans? No again, because despite their claim of wanting “fair and accurate coverage”, they are simply an ethnic special interests group with a political agenda.

  18. comment number 18 by: lostinube

    I assume it’s this one?
    The 121 Coalition

  19. comment number 19 by: sitwell_87

    I wonder why there is no National Association of White Journalists partnered with the other groups listed, 😛

  20. comment number 20 by: lostinube

    Whoops, my previous comment was for jion999.
    I understand that the way the statement is worded it comes off sounding like they want to not have any mention of race at all in the news but that’s not the way I read it. I simply read it as a statement (or warning) to the media to be responsible in their reporting. I think that when the news broke a lot of speculation was flying around, especially on the net. To me, it was a reasonable statement at a time when racial issues in the US were getting heated because of the whole Don Imus controversy.
    I admit that (as an Asian American myself but not much of an activist) the AAJA is a special interest group and yes, they were looking out for themselves. I doubt that there will be much physical violence towards Asians in the states but as everyone who frequents here knows, the internet is full of people who are brave when they are sitting behind their monitors and I do think that there will be some sniping for the time being.
    To people who don’t quite get the Asian American thing — it’s easier to get things done as a large group than as small individual groups, especially in the US where special interests are constantly at odds with one another.
    Not to excuse them but as a group, the Asian American movement still has a long way to go. To get anything done they have to work as a unified front but because the term Asian is so wide it includes many groups, some who work against each other at times. This incident is, in a sense, a big test because the national spotlight is squarely on them. And they probably will ruffle a few feathers along the way.

  21. comment number 21 by: Matt

    lostinube, I really do not see how this involves Asian Americans at all. The killer is a foreign national, and is being reported that way. What do Asian Americans hope to achieve by entangling themselves with him?

  22. comment number 22 by: lostinube

    I won’t pretend to speak for all Asian Americans but I think the reasoning is something like this: although many try to distance themselves from immigrants (in which they themselves perpetuate the stereotype of the FOB) as far as the media goes, Asian is Asian, regardless of if they are from Asia themselves or if they are several generations removed. Racial stereotypes have persisted in the popular media of the Asians as super brains or Asians as kung-fu masters and so on and for the most part, they affect everyone who is Asian. So in term of the media, groups like the AAJA want to stop any sort of racial stereotyping or misinformation regardless of country of origin. As I said before, the bigger the group they can include, the more of a voice they can have. Plus, there are still many 1st generation and 2nd generation Asians so the feeling of closeness to their ethnic origin is still quite strong.
    Now, this is only with regards to Asians in North America (Asian (or Azn for the youngsters) Pride is similar in the US and Canada). I’m not sure how things go in other countries such as Australia.
    Note: Just because people identify themselves with a certain ethnicity, whether they decide to be supporters of that country’s policies is their choice.

  23. comment number 23 by: lostinube

    The AAJA has updated and re-worded their statement since others on the internet criticized their original press release.

  24. comment number 24 by: AG

    When questioning how the shooter, who might be a foreigner, got the guns and ammos, I think it is reasonable to mention the person’s immigration status and how he/she obtained.

    What I find ironic is that when Asian Weekly (SF free paper) published an article “Why I hate blacks,” back in February, AAJA did make an accusing statement, but didn’t really follow through to clarify what exactly went on. Now it is about Asian and they are telling this to fellow journalists who are doing reports the way they have been doing them?

  25. comment number 25 by: Ken

    A Korean medium said right after identified as Korean, “The first thing that the two countries should do is recognize the sheer shock and distress of 2.5 million Korean Americans and students in the United States.”.
    Is this the first thing to do?
    Shuld this be addressed to the USA as well?
    I cannot understand this mentality.
    I wonder what the bereaved families feel if they read this article.