Our VoiceImmigration

Olympic Coverage Marred by Media Bias

Jill Garvey • Aug 25, 2008

A few days ago an Associated Press article caught my attention. It told the inspiring story of Henry Cejudo and his road to Olympic Gold. It’s a powerful story - determined young man rises from poverty, fights the odds, and becomes the best. Unfortunately the writer ruined it by referring to Henry’s parents as Mexican aliens.

When is the media going to catch on that referring to human beings as aliens is degrading? There are literally dozens of other terms that would be more respectful, but the writer chose the one word that many now consider derogatory. How about just describing his parents as Mexican immigrants? When the focal point of your story is the amazing accomplishments of a young athlete, why would mentioning whether his parents are documented or not even be a priority?

This summer’s Olympics have more foreign-born American athletes competing than ever before. Thirty-three to be exact, and I’m sure many, many more with foreign-born parents, like Henry. If you’re like me, you enjoyed hearing Bob Costas tell the triumphant, and sometimes heartbreaking stories of our greatest athletes, just as much as you enjoyed watching them. Would we even bother watching women’s gymnastics without all the drama?

But mainstream media seemed determined to let the bigoted side of the immigration debate seep into their coverage. Take for example USA Today’s article on the subject in which they quoted athletes and coaches voicing support for their foreign-born teammates, followed immediately with statements from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC), both of whom have a history of virulent anti-immigrant activities. Ira Mehlman from FAIR was quoted in the article as follows:

“Not everybody coming into the U.S. is an Olympic athlete or a Nobel prize winner,” Mehlman said. “Maybe this ought to be a wake-up call that we ought to design an immigration policy that seeks out exceptional people. Now, most of it is based on extended families. …”

I don’t know any Olympic athletes or Nobel prize winners personally, but I’m going to take a leap and assume they aren’t more valuable as human beings than us mere mortals. And what exactly is so wrong about immigration policy based on families? I can’t think of anything more American than giving the same opportunities to all, not just the “exceptional people”.

Differing perspectives on a topic are necessary to a balanced article, but providing a hate group ,like FAIR, a national platform is just irresponsible journalism.

Our athletes deserve more respect, Henry Cedujo deserves unmarred admiration, and we, as readers, deserve media outlets that can distinguish between hate groups and legitimate sources.

*Image gratefully borrowed from Denis Collette’s photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

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