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Why saying 'Black' with a capital B isn't enough

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The problem with capitalizing B is that it's an easy thing to do at a time when it's more important to do work that's difficult, especially in journalism, says Mireille Grangenois. If newsroom leaders don't acknowledge their own place on the spectrum of institutions the current protests are aimed at upending, she writes, they're missing the story.

I implored him to change newsroom style and capitalize the "b" in the word "Black" when referring to African Americans.

This month, spurred in part by protests against racial injustice convulsing the nation, newsrooms across the country have been debating this decades-old topic -- and with some fanfare, some major ones have come down in favor of the capital B, including NBC News, CNN and The Associated Press.

Based on long experience in both editorial and corporate roles at a variety of news outlets, I contend more than a few top editors are likely quite relieved so many news consumers, media watchers and influencers are caught up in this style-guide sideshow -- instead of focusing on the main event: transforming how journalism outlets address race and, in the process, leading a genuine transformation in how America confronts racism.

Not only does merely capitalizing the "b" not improve coverage to that standard, it may offer an easy cosmetic out to news organizations and indeed a wide set of corporations and institutions to assuage their need to feel like they're on the right side of history.

Baron, whose paper is keeping the lower-case "b" if you are curious, is also grappling with a newsroom challenging his leadership on internal matters related to race (including coverage, decision-making and staffing).

But the Post's moves to bolster its institutional resources on reporting about race and identity stand out nonetheless at a moment when I dare say too many editors -- many facing the economic travail wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic -- don't want to entertain the question of how their institutions will change to meet this moment in history.

The "b" debate and the deeper questions confronting the journalism world didn't begin with these protests or Black Lives Matter.

After leaving USA Today, I served as minority affairs director for what was once called the American Society of Newspaper Editors (now the News Leaders Association after merging with another organization), with oversight of its annual newsroom employment survey that measured progress towards diversity.

Ask almost any Black journalist how often their ability to fairly report a story was questioned because of their race.

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