AAJA seeks retraction from The Detroit News for Neal Rubin’s column revisiting the Vincent Chin murder case

May 7

Response from The Detroit News Managing Editor

Dear Paul,

I’m responding on behalf of Jon Wolman after discussing Neal Rubin’s April 29 column with him and his editors.

Neal has a provocative viewpoint on the subject of Vincent Chin’s murder but there were shortcomings in the column’s approach and we regret that this hurt many readers. The column was ambiguous as to which facts in the murder were being addressed, and it failed to adequately account for others who could have represented a broader point of view.

To help address that, we published guest opinion piece from Frank H. Wu. You can find it here: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140506/LIFESTYLE/305060026/1005/LIFESTYLE .

Factual reviews of Rubin’s column by AAJA and The Detroit News have raised one potential inaccuracy, centering on whether the perpetrators’ criminal fines were $3,720 or $3,780. If we determine the column was in error, we will of course correct it.

Thank you for bringing these concerns to our attention. We recognize that we should have done better on a subject of such complexity.

Gary Miles
Managing Editor
The Detroit News

April 29

AAJA seeks retraction from The Detroit News for Neal Rubin’s column revisiting the Vincent Chin murder case

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 7.53.50 PMDear Mr. Jonathan Wolman, Editor & Publisher, The Detroit News:

Your columnist Neal Rubin is certainly entitled to his opinion. But your readers are entitled to something far more important: fair and accurate journalism.

On both measures, Rubin’s column this week revisiting the Vincent Chin murder case missed the mark.

How one columnist, using one source and little basis in fact or accuracy, could rewrite the history of a case that ignited the Asian American civil rights movement has understandably enraged many people.

Although we are willing to give columnists and other opinion writers some leeway, we at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) believe that the standards of fairness and accuracy should apply to all journalists, regardless of our role in a news organization.

We are encouraged to learn that your newsroom has begun a dialogue about Rubin’s piece, and we hope that the News will take the steps necessary to strengthen its process of reviewing columnists’ work.

We would have hoped that someone in the newsroom — Rubin’s editor, the copy desk, the section editor, Rubin himself — would have raised questions before the publication of the column, which takes a match to decades of understanding about racial hatred and violence.

Did anyone ask for fact-checking, context or balance?

We wish Rubin could take back his words. We think a retraction would be appropriate. At minimum, we ask for public acknowledgement that his piece was flawed. And we ask you to reach out to Asian Americans, in Detroit and beyond, to find different points of view. We also would  like an opportunity to discuss the matter with your newsroom leaders.

This column is especially hurtful because it comes just as our country is about to celebrate its vibrant citizenry during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. But all of May presents an opportunity for you and for your colleagues: What better time for the News to make amends to the people it has just hurt so deeply?

Bobby Caina Calvan and Abe Kwok, AAJA MediaWatch Committee
Paul Cheung, AAJA President

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is a nonprofit professional and educational organization with more than 1,700 members across the United States and in Asia. AAJA MediaWatch holds news media organizations accountable to standards of accuracy and fairness in the coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and AAPI issues.

Founded in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry. AAJA’s mission is to encourage AAPIs to enter the ranks of journalism, to work for fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs, and to increase the number of AAPI journalists and news managers in the industry. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, along with the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. For more information about AAJA, visit www.aaja.org.