AAJA Urges Newsrooms Not To Perpetuate Xenophobia in COVID-19 Coverage

AAJA's response to Chicago Sun-Times tweet

The Asian American Journalists Association urges newsrooms to not perpetuate xenophobia in coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic as anti-Asian violence increases.

In a now-deleted tweet that was captured in this screenshot, the Chicago Sun-Times used an image depicting people on a street in Tokyo, Japan, as the preview for the headline: “A new COVID variant is spreading across the U.S.” 

This image, taken by Koji Sasahara, was originally published in the article “Japan to fully lift COVID-19 restrictions as inflection slows” by Mari Yamaguchi for the Associated Press.

Pairing that photo with the story was, first of all, journalistically inaccurate. Journalists must be diligent in making sure published images fit with the context of the story, particularly when there is a potential for misleading readers and perpetuating harmful tropes.

Additionally, using a generic image of East Asians in masks, in an article that mainly discusses the rising cases in the U.S. and Europe, continues to perpetuate the idea that COVID-19 and East Asians are automatically associated. Associating the COVID-19 pandemic with East Asians fuels racism and xenophobia against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States, which has been linked to a stark rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans since 2020.

We urge newsrooms to consider whether images used are relevant and add further context to the story. We ask newsrooms to continue to refer to our guidance on coverage of anti-Asian violence and on COVID-19.

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