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NABJ Criticizes Boston Bombing ‘Dark-Skinned’ Description

By// Mariah Craddick

In the media blitz that has followed the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, we’ve seen some of the best, worst and downright shameful moments in journalism – which tends to happen anytime a major breaking news event happens. For instance, when top news sources CNN, the Associated Press, and the Boston Globe inaccurately reported that a suspect had been arrested then quickly had to retract their statements after a scolding from the FBI.

CNN’s reporter John King is now facing some harsh criticism from the National Association of Black Journalists after describing a potential suspect as a “dark-skinned male.”

“There are some people who will take offense for even saying that,” he said. “I understand that.”

People were offended and on top of that, King’s information turned out to be wrong again. 

The NABJ released the following statement:

There have been various reports identifying a potential suspect as “a dark-skinned individual.” This terminology is not only offensive, but also offers an incomplete picture of relevant facts about the potential person of interest’s identity. When conveying information for the public good, and which can help law enforcement with the help of a vigilant public to keep the country safe, it’s important that such facts be put into proper context.

NABJ in no way encourages censorship but does encourage news organizations to be responsible when reporting about race, to report on race only when relevant and a vital part of a story. Ultimately this helps to avoid mischaracterizations which might encourage potential bias or discrimination against a person or a group of people based on race or ethnicity.

Just to clear things up: the FBI says that no arrests have been made yet, though USA Today has reported that investigators are making “major progress.”

Update: The FBI has just released images of two potential suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. They can be viewed here.