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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The role of race in the recent hate-fueled violence — along with President Trump's increasingly brazen embrace of racist stereotypes and language — has highlighted the news media's struggles in talking about race, hate and other painful issues of divisiveness.

The big picture: News organizations are expected to stick to the facts and avoid taking sides, but they're under growing pressure not to mislabel statements and actions that most Americans would consider racist. And the lack of diversity in newsrooms means many have blind spots on issues of race that become obvious in their coverage.

Driving the news: The New York Times came under fire on Tuesday for running the headline "Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism" on an article on the president's remarks on mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

  • While the article itself was largely considered fair, the headline was criticized for focusing solely on Trump’s remarks and disregarding the hostility of his previous tweets and statements. The Times changed the headline online and in the next print edition.

Why it matters: While the Times was the latest center of attention, they are not alone. Across the board, newsrooms have drawn backlash for their coverage of recent events.

  • The Atlantic notes that many newsrooms failed to fully address the shooting in El Paso as it relates to hate, because they neglected to identify those targeted: Latinos. While mass shootings have become alarmingly common, ones where the victims are hunted because of their ethnicity are less so. The shooter admitted to police he drove 650 miles to the Texas Walmart to shoot Mexicans, and coverage has been rather light on placing his motive within the sphere of anti-immigrant rhetoric our country is facing.
  • Politico was criticized for writing that Trump's tweets attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and his Baltimore district, which is primarily black, were a continuation of his "racially charged drumbeat." As many on Twitter noted, racism is not a song.
  • ABC's World News Tonight ran "racially charged" in a tweet of their own talking about Trump's tweets telling 4 Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from, despite 3 being American born and all being American citizens. ABC's language dismayed some viewers.
  • And we've been wrong as well. In our coverage, Axios first dubbed the tweets against the congresswomen a "nativist attack." After internal discussions, we decided to characterize such comments as "racist" in future coverage.

The other side: In contrast, NPR got backlash for calling the tweets racist, saying their inbox was filled with "passionate (and yes, often angry)" reader and listener responses against the decision.

Between the lines: The standards of journalism require us to avoid emotional judgment in order to provide a factual report. Describing statements or actions as racist when they are is part of factual reporting.

Some media critics say that watering down descriptions of those racist comments is inadequate in the current climate. Columbia University's Bill Grueskin, a former journalist, told AP that the stakes now are similar to the civil rights movement, a moral issue that was so clear that some reporters abandoned their usual reluctance to suggest who was right and wrong.

Newsrooms could improve in several ways:

  • Newsrooms are still overwhelmingly white. While there's been improvement, a 2016 study from the American Society of News Editors found that the minority workforce in traditional print and digital news publications only reached 17%. When underserved voices are not given a role in coverage, that coverage suffers.
  • What makes journalists different, be it sexuality, gender identity, race or ethnicity, can often be seen as a bias. In fact, these differences strengthen coverage and make news stories more accurate.

Our thought bubble: Axios has room to grow in this regard, too, and we are always looking for ways to evaluate our own coverage. We welcome your feedback at news@axios.com.

Go deeper: America's hate problem

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Why Trump may still fire Barr

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General Barr may be fired or resign, as President Trump seethes about Barr's statement this week that no widespread voter fraud has been found.

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the president's thinking tells Axios that Trump remains frustrated with what he sees as the lack of a vigorous investigation into his election conspiracy theories.

Mike Allen, author of AM
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Scoop: Trump's spy chief plans dire China warning

Xi Jinping reviews troops during a military parade in Beijing last year. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday will publicly warn that China's threat to the U.S. is a defining issue of our time, a senior administration official tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's exceedingly rare for the head of the U.S. intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power.

Ina Fried, author of Login
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Tech's race problem is all about power

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As problematic as the tech industry's diversity statistics are, activists say the focus on those numbers overlooks a more fundamental problem — one less about numbers than about power.

What they're saying: In tech, they argue, decision-making power remains largely concentrated in the hands of white men. The result is an industry whose products and working conditions belie the industry rhetoric about changing the world for the better.