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Appearances are Everything




Michael Miner was right to call attention to the Sun-Times's conspicuous absence from the recently concluded national convention of the Asian American Journalists Association in Chicago (Hot Type, August 14 and 21). But when it comes to the cause of minorities in journalism--Asian-American or otherwise--the Reader is hardly one to criticize others.

"Sun-Times: Appearances Be Damned," Miner titled the first column. Let's check out the appearance of the Reader's editorial masthead. Sridhar Pappu, staff writer, South Asian. Krishna Knabe, editorial assistant--white, actually. That's it--one Asian-American (we're not counting freelancers, like longtime music and film contributor Ted Shen). Other nonwhites? Cheryl Ross, staff writer, and Michael Marsh, editorial assistant, both African-American, for a total of 3 out of 38.

Miner also went on to list all the journalists of color who have left the Sun-Times over the past few years. Well, why did former editorial staffers Yeun Littlefield (Asian-American), Rosalind Cummings-Yeates (African-American), John Sanchez, and Ben Ortiz (both Chicano) all leave the Reader over the past few years?

I should disclose that the Reader has been good to me, personally. As a journalist, I count several of my freelance pieces for the Reader among the best edited and most rewarding in my career. I should also mention that the Reader made a donation to the AAJA convention, manned a job fair booth, bought a full-page program ad (whose mixed message--"Do you hate your job?" "Have you had it up to here with 'objectivity'?"--didn't contain the word "diversity"), and dispatched managing editor Pat Arden to the "Finding Your Niche" panel, where he sat alongside other white representatives from Chicago magazine and the Medill School of Journalism.

The "Why Are Our Mastheads Still So White?" panel is a perennial at your "alternative" press conventions, occasioning much hand-wringing and ass-covering, but spurring no change. Nigel Wade didn't pay lip service to our convention, which was arrogant of him. But I'll grant the Sun-Times this much: Mi-Ai Ahern is editor of the Showcase section, and reporter Jae-Ha Kim (who weathered a protracted, embarassing-for-him attack by the Reader's Bill Wyman) sat with me on a panel about Asian-Americans in pop culture (which was attended in far greater numbers than the concurrent panel your editor appeared at). Which counts for at least as much as the Reader's lip service.

You've got the proof on your masthead, don't claim the moral authority to criticize other media organizations over their commitment to minority hiring.

Ben Kim


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