AAJA Urges Vigilance in Reporting on Boston Bombing Suspects

The events this week in Boston have been tragic, and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) joins in mourning the dead and in wishing a speedy recovery to those injured. Like all Americans, we have been riveted by the ongoing investigation and the pursuit of those behind Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.

We have also been monitoring news coverage, and we applaud our fellow journalists — including many of our own members — for the mostly exemplary work they are doing under difficult circumstances.

But it has become clear that the news media need to exercise greater caution and vigilance to prevent further missteps in coverage. Lapses have included misidentifying suspects, mischaracterizing the suspects’ physical descriptions and premature speculation about the motives behind the bombings.

As we learn more about the brothers who are the focus of the investigation, we caution not only against jumping to conclusions about what role their faith might have had, if any, but also express concern about the news coverage about their background as immigrants. The siblings, 19 and 26, reportedly moved to the United States a decade ago.

It disturbs us that some in the news media have questioned the patriotic allegiance of the brothers’ families. It is unseemly for journalists to subject anyone, immigrant or not, to a loyalty test. Assimilation can be a challenge for immigrants, and we must be careful about potentially demonizing our fellow Americans who face those struggles.

As the debate plays out over U.S. immigration policies, we urge the news media to act responsibly and not complicate that discussion with irrelevant lines of questioning.

AAJA stands ready as a resource for fair, accurate and sensitive portrayals of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. One resource is AAJA’s “Handbook to Covering Asian America.”

Paul Cheung
AAJA National President

Bobby Caina Calvan
AAJA MediaWatch Chair