Many American journalists were quick to criticize renowned Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos—who was forcibly removed from a press conference on Aug. 25—as not being objective after Ramos pressed Donald Trump on his absurd plans to reform immigration policy.
But the mainstream, commercial media, whose newsrooms hardly reflect the diversity of this country, has a long history of less-than-objective coverage of Latinos.
And the many Twitter rants devoted to “objectivity” in journalism that the incident sparked only underscore this point.
As journalism students in this country, most of us are taught that absolute objectivity is an essential part of the craft. Students who are brave enough to pursue the profession (particularly those of color who have seen what “objective” coverage of their communities looks like) soon learn that true objectivity in journalism is as realistic as Trump’s plans to construct a 1,900-mile wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, deport 11 million people and deny citizenship to Americans born to undocumented parents.
What passes for objectivity these days is too often just giving equal time and weight to two opposing viewpoints even if one of them is ridiculous. Or that to be truly objective, the journalist should be completely indifferent to what they are reporting. In reality, this required air of indifference frequently hinders truthful coverage of the marginalized.
It is the pursuit of truth, which doesn’t always appear objective, that is essential for good journalism. And the truth is that Trump’s ideas on immigration would violate the U.S. constitution and basic human rights.
Who else, other than a journalist covering such a campaign built on fear, can expose this kind of dangerous rhetoric for what it is?
Ramos refused to cower before a loud-mouthed buffoon masquerading as a legitimate candidate for the nation’s highest office. And why should he? Unlike his critics, Ramos comes from a part of the world where seeking the truth by asking tough and uncomfortable questions can cost a journalist his life.
From being assaulted by one of Fidel Castro’s bodyguard after asking the Cuban dictator about elections, to receiving death threats after questioning former Colombian president Ernesto Samper if he knowingly received $6 million in campaign contributions from the Cali Cartel, Ramos has consistently pursued the truth.
Ramos is a journalist and, in questioning a presidential candidate’s controversial stance on a major political issue, he was practicing journalism in its truest sense.
Had Trump targeted a different group—say members of the black or Jewish communities—would journalists have called him out on it? And if they had, would their journalistic integrity have been questioned?