WashPo’s Howard Kurtz Asks Are Black Female Beat Reporters “inadvertently invested in her success?”

Robin GivhanIn a recent column for the Washington Post’s Media Notes, Howard Kurtz describes the many black female reporters who cover the First Lady and wonders how their ethnicity affects their coverage. He specifically talks about Rachel Swarns of the New York Times, the Post’s Robin Givhan, Newsweek’s Allison Samuels, Darlene Superville of the Associated Press and Politico’s Nia-Malika Henderson.

While Kurtz tries to cover his back end by stating that “no one raises questions when an Irish American male reporter covers a pol named Murphy,” it still doesn’t stop him from delving into the racial side of these black reporters’ works.

More after the jump.

(M)ost write with enthusiasm, in some cases even admiration, about the first lady as a long-awaited role model for black women.

“Without a doubt, I identify with her as a brown-skinned African American woman,” Samuels says. “Now we have Michelle and see her as a mother, a lawyer, a wife, and she’s doing it fabulously.” Samuels got to interview Obama during the campaign and “we had a girlfriend-to-girlfriend moment. We did connect.”

At one point, Kurtz wonders if these reporters are overly invested in Michelle Obama’s success to make their mettle, recalling how Jesse Jackson’s two runs for president helped gain access for black journalists who in the past were non-existent in the largely white Washington Press Corps.

But the reporters interviewed all argued that while they did identify with Obama as a black woman, they insisted that does affect their coverage.

“We all bring the full depth of our experiences to the facts we emphasize, the questions we ask, the stories that get us excited,” says Givhan, who was a year behind Obama at Princeton, although their paths did not cross. “But in the end, news is news.”

Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer, moved here from New York last month to cover the beat, which she describes as “really rich because there is that element of race that has not been there before.” At the same time, she says, “no one noted all the white chicks covering Laura Bush.”

Read the full article here.

12 thoughts on “WashPo’s Howard Kurtz Asks Are Black Female Beat Reporters “inadvertently invested in her success?”

  1. I am really starting to get sick of these white folks in the media. I never saw Laura Bush getting negative coverage and considering that Michelle hasn’t done anything controversial (except made up stuff, like shame on her for not using pesticides in her garden which is some bull shit) so why shouldn’t she get good coverage. Maybe the managers in the news rooms are showing their racism by mostly assigning black women to cover her. And Kutz is definitely showing his racism by bringing it up. They do it all the time and no one asks about their motives. Kurtz is a putz. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I may have to give up following the news and blogs soon just to keep my sanity.

  2. Hallelujah, Lisa J…he spend his time on Bernie Madoff and his criminal exploits! Kutz is a racist paranoid of his pending demise! Sisters need to support First Lady Michelle Obama, because she is a role model for black girls, and women, and the postive image of black women…I want projected to the world. (Debra Lee take notes!)So no complains about the lack of criticism of Laura Bush and her parenting, underage girls sneaking into bars and ducking secret service details, ahem.

  3. It’s impossible for most minority reporters to entirely separate their racial and cultural experiences from their reporting. We celebrate the successes more because we maybe don’t see as many. But we can also be the harshest critics when they mess up (Can you hear me Villaraigosa?).The more important issue here is the continued dominance of the field by wealthy white men. As jobs become more scarce and the "old boys network" again becomes the primary avenue to media jobs, only those privileged enough to have connections and an outside income source (mom and dad, trust fund, etc) to support them through the first five years will be able to rise up the ranks.That inherently skews the coverage.

  4. First, Allison Samuels is a hack! And did anyone question White women reporters coverage of any of the other First Ladies? Hipster racisim is out in the open for all to see with the Obamas in the White House.

  5. It’s the assumption that all white people are inherently without bias, and everyone else, being different from us (I’m white), must carry bias since we "can’t." After all, we’re just "normal," and there’s something not normal about everyone else. It’s the same reason why everyone freaks out over Sotamayer. White male judges can’t be biased, but women or people of color? Whoamigod, so much bias! They just can’t help themselves. While white males are happy to acknowledge that there is an overarching social bias against people of color and women that could effect people of color/women’s perceptions and judgment and opinions, there is no way that same social bias could possibly effect their own perceptions/judgments/opinions, and it couldn’t possibly be the result of, oh, I don’t know, their own deeply ingrained biases. And if you insinuate that the inequities might be the result of their biases, well, then the overarching social bias doesn’t exist at all.I don’t know how people like Kurtz manage to be writers, which I’m assuming requires a modicum of reflection and self-awareness, and never realize how ridiculous they sound.

  6. Co-signing with Katie. It’s really been an eye opening experience watching the so-called "mainstream" media cover the Obamas and the new divversity in Washington. I would be amused if I wasn’t so weary.

  7. Were White Female reporters inadvertedly invested in the success of the OTHER FIRST LADIES?

  8. I agree with you all. It’s like lately I’ve had to laugh and joke about the absurdities to keep from tearing my hair out and crying over the greater implications of these modes of thought and how they play out in our society in real and dangerous ways…Lord help us.

  9. Divide & conquer, people. Thats where it boils down to. Their method is sophisticated than the old school way, but they aim for the same target.It absloutly terrifies them to see us publicly rooting for them(or EACH OTHER for that matter).Of course, I know what the clock on the wall says,,,,not all of them suffer from that "disease".

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