In crafting their stories, many political journalists follow a simple formula: report on the controversy du jour, make a few phone calls to get the rhetoric from both sides, and throw in an “expert” to round things out.
In its story about Whoopi Goldberg being dropped from her gig as SlimFast spokesperson, the (New York) Daily News followed the formula to a tee. In the role of expert, the anonymous Daily News reporter (no byline) cast Asa Khalif, the president of Racial Unity USA, who “has made headlines for accusing celebrities of insensitivity,” according to the paper.
The story was spurred by the fact that Goldberg “lashed out at Republicans again yesterday,” arguing her critics are being hypocritical for what she deems “feigned indignation” over her criticism of the president. It includes a back-and-forth between Bush and Kerry’s campaign managers, the former of whom wants a video of the fundraiser at which Goldberg made her incendiary comments, and the latter of whom says she’ll release the video when Bush releases a few things himself. The piece ends with a quote from Khalif, who says, regarding the incident, “I smell racism from beginning to end. SlimFast must realize that black women have every right to voice their views.”
That’s quite a quote. After all, no one involved in this controversy — not Goldberg, not Republicans, not Democrats and certainly not SlimFast — has even hinted that race had anything to do with what went down. And yet the Daily News felt compelled to inject race into its story.
We all know that a newspaper can usually find an individual to say just about anything, if it so desires.
But that doesn’t mean it should.