News has a short attention span, but a recent panel turned into a forward-looking, insight-rich session showing the way for North Carolina media to build better long-term coverage of Asian American and Pacific Islander people — and support AAPI journalists — to make and deepen connections in our increasingly diverse state.
That was the NC Local News Workshop’s aim in bringing together five journalists and a community leader on May 14: To look beyond the immediate. We wanted to learn from the journalism discussion that followed the murders of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, amid new attention to the reality of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric as an ongoing reality.
I hope you will watch it for yourself, because no summary is as good as hearing these panelists’ insights in their own voices and words, led by WUNC host Anita Rao. We were joined by Chavi Khanna Koneru, cofounder and executive director of NC Asian Americans Together; WRAL-TV anchor Renee Chou; News & Observer reporters Julian Shen-Berro and Ashad Hajela; and Waliya Lari, a former WRAL executive producer who now is head of programs and partnership for the Asian American Journalists Association, our cosponsor.
In North Carolina, where the diverse population of AAPI people represents one of the state’s fastest-growing groups, our panelists pointed out opportunities for better journalism that also helps newsrooms build relationships and audiences. Yet many newsrooms lack key resources for being able to cover these communities — language skills, relationships and sources — and don’t realize the gaps till they’re in the midst of a breaking news story.
Words and language matter
AAJA responded to the events of spring by publishing updated guidance for covering AAPI people and issues, an an audio pronunciation guide to the Atlanta victims’ name, and additional resources for understanding and reporting accurately.
Yet mistakes often happen at that basic level, Lari noted: Mentioning a detail that is ordinary in one culture as noteworthy, for instance. She referred to a 2016 piece she wrote for RTDNA, “The Words of Journalists Have Power,” that offered descriptions of two men — one a suspected terrorist, and one her husband — with details such as having recently grown a beard, having emigrated from Afghanistan, and other elements often used in descriptions of terror suspects.