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Media coverage of immigration issues challenged by panel

June 02, 2002|By MATT YOUNG

Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The American news media prior to Sept. 11 had a love affair with immigration that led to "overly romantic" reporting on the issue, a senior fellow from a conservative policy group said Friday during a panel discussion.

"The record shows political correctness … distracted from the watchdog role the press should have been playing before 9/11," William McGowan of the Manhattan Institute said at the National Press Club panel on media bias.

"Immigration has a profound impact on national politics, security and survival," McGowan said.

As such, it deserves tough and skeptical reporting, but instead the media had and still has an "overly romantic take on the issues," he said.

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"Too many journalists have been all too ready to celebrate immigration's relationship to America's increasing cultural diversity," McGowan wrote in a new book, "Coloring The News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism."

For instance, he said, for some time universities did not monitor student visa holders, but journalists rarely wrote about the problem prior to Sept. 11.

Al Cross, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said in an interview that until recently immigration was not causing the kinds of social problems or controversy that prompt extensive news coverage.

"Immigration was good for the economy … and society generally benefited from immigration," he said.

"In a number of states, there has been a significant influx of immigrants," he added, a trend that deserves attention.

Another member of the Press Club panel, Joe Guzzardi of NumbersUSA.com, which seeks to curb illegal immigration, said he read 1,500 immigration articles as part of a recent assignment to measure reporting standards.

"Very few stories met the reporters' definition of fair and balanced," he said.

Guzzardi said typically, while three to four quotes were from pro-immigration sources, only one was from an immigration opponent — and that was "buried in the second half of the story.‘‘

"They were complex stories that deserved thoughtful coverage but didn't get it," he said.

Guzzardi conceded that issues like border control and visa fraud have been covered in a more professional manner since Sept. 11.

A third panelist, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that seeks to limit immigration, disputed the notion that local newspapers in immigrant communities cover immigration issues better than the national media.

"It's not better at the local level, but not a lot worse, either," he said.

August Gribbin, a former reporter for the Washington Times, disagreed. He said reporters at small newspapers often have to write many articles per week and don't have the time given to national reporters to cover stories in-depth.

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