If you’ve lost NPR …

Kira Davis:

The news cycle recently has been nonstop talk about Trump’s “racist” tweets and the fallout that ensued. A lot of arguing has been going on about what exactly makes them racist, with many of the usual subjects complaining that the Right is defending a “white supremacist” and even many on the Right denouncing the tweet storm as unacceptable.

One NPR opinion writer raised a few hackles when he suggested that those journalists reporting on Trump should refrain from using descriptors like “racist”.

Keith Woods is Vice President of Newsroom Training and Diversity at NPR. After the outlet made a corporate decision to use the term “racist” when describing Trump’s tweets, Woods felt the mandate violated journalistic practice and penned an op ed explaining why he thinks journalists should refrain from using the term.

I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree. Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.

It is precisely because journalism is given to warm-spit phrases like “racially insensitive” and “racially charged” that we should not be in the business of moral labeling in the first place. Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s “insensitive” or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s “racist?” Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.

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