NPR’s VP of Newsroom Diversity Argues That it is the Job of the Public, Not Journalists, to Decide Who is ‘Racist’

National Public Radio’s VP of Newsroom Diversity and Training, Keith Woods, has argued that it is the job of the public, not journalists, to decide who is “racist” or not.

This week, NPR opted to refer to President Donald Trump’s tweets about the “squad” of freshmen representatives as “racist.”

Surprisingly, Woods appeared on NPR’s Code Switch podcast following their accusation to discuss why labeling someone as racist is unprofessional.

Woods, who is by no means a fan of the president, also wrote an op-ed explaining his position.


“I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree,” Woods explained. “Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.”

Woods went on to explain that something that may be considered “racist” by one person may just be considered “insensitive” by another, and that journalists should not be in the business of moral labeling.

“Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s ‘insensitive’ or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s ‘racist?’ Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.”

The NPR executive explained that while it “may be satisfying to call the president’s words, or the president himself, racist,” it puts journalistic credibility at stake. He also took aim directly at cable news pundits who bicker for ratings.

“It’s already nearly impossible to separate actual journalism from the argumentative noise on the cable networks that dominate so much of public perception. There are already too many journalists dancing day and night on the line that once separated fact and judgment,” he wrote. “When that line is finally obliterated and we sink into the cesspool beckoning us to its depths, this historically flawed, imperfect tool for revealing and routing racism will look and sound indistinguishable from the noise and become just as irrelevant.”

Woods concluded by noting that if something is really racist, people will get that without the labeling — if they just do real journalism.

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