Editor Mulls ‘Deeply Complex’ Issue Of Racial ID In Crime News


When is it appropriate to identify the race of a crime suspect? Joe Howry, editor of the Ventura County (Calif.) Star, considers this news dilemma. He writes, “Nothing tests the competence and ethics of journalists as much as the coverage of race and ethnicity. It is a subject of deep complexity as well as volatility and requires careful, thoughtful handling.” He adds the issue is “regularly misunderstood and misinterpreted.”

Howry continues, “It often begins with the most fundamental of reporting tasks: the description of crime suspects. In providing suspect descriptions, most law-enforcement agencies include race. Most newspapers, however, don't include race in their reports unless certain criteria are met, while there are some that never include it. The Star's policy is to include ethnicity/race in suspect descriptions, provided there is enough detailed information that ethnicity/race is relevant and likely would be helpful in leading to an arrest.”

Comments are closed.