Another Thought About That Immigration Story

August 31st, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

Here’s another thought regarding that front page Journal story from Aug. 30 about the undocumented family who moved from Arizona to New Mexico in the wake of the state’s controversial immigration law.

Yesterday I wrote about the paper’s failure to use the story to make a case that Albuquerque Public Schools is being overrun by undocumented students fleeing Arizona.

Today I must ask – why on earth did the paper choose to run a picture of those two children on the front page? I’m talking about the 14 and 17 year-old-brothers who moved here from Arizona with their mom. The Journal ran a large photo of them to illustrate the story about the boys’ illegal status and the fact that they are attending APS schools.

I ask because, for the paper, running that feature photo on the front page was exactly that – a choice. And it was a bad one.

They Are Children

As minors, those children should not have been allowed to give consent to be photographed for the paper – to identified for all to see as undocumented immigrants, subject to deportation. Was their mother consulted? Did she understand the ramifications?

Even if the answer to both of those questions is yes, the paper should not have run the photograph of these children.

The whole way the Journal handled this story is just odd. In the story, the boys are only identified by their first names.

But their pictures are plastered over the paper!

If the intent was to disguise their identities, the paper had to know that strategy wouldn’t work.

When To Use Last Names

And I don’t even know how to square the Journal’s handling of this story with what I’ve heard from immigration advocates who’ve sought meetings with the paper’s editors.

In the interest of getting the Journal to run stories from the immigrants’ point of view, local immigration advocates told me they’ve met with the papers editors and been rebuffed. The reason? If the immigrants aren’t willing to give their full names, the paper cannot use them in stories. In other words, the advocates were told, the paper simply can’t tell immigrant stories, because they can’t let people be in the paper if they can’t run their last names.

A Porous Policy

I wrote for the Journal for years, and I know that editors DO grant permission for dropping someone’s last name or using a pseudonym sporadically, on a case-by-case basis.

I distinctly remember getting permission to use a pseudonym for a female sex addict for a story I was writing about women who were addicted to porn.

If permission was granted so I could tell that incredibly newsworthy story – shouldn’t it be granted to undocumented immigrants, so the paper can better report on what’s become one of the biggest news stories of the year?

Apparently, for this latest story, the paper was able to change its policy. Because at last, it interviewed undocumented immigrants and didn’t use their last names.

It just put their pictures on the front page.

Tags: ···

One Comment so far ↓

  • John McKean

    In defense of the story, it was more effective through the use of actual named persons with photos. I suspect withholding family names was the arrangement the Journal was offered and it may have been intended to keep the full names of the students from entering searchable databases. Like you, I certainly hope parental consent was obtained. I thought High Country News, in its August 16 edition, raised an important related issue — the wall that these young men and women face when they leave school and try to find work or, in some cases, higher education in this country. By putting human faces on these situations and bringing the plights of actual people to the attention of the press and public, immigration advocates may be moving the debate a little, although it is hard to see a political path toward meaningful immigration reform.

Leave a Comment