Panelists from left to right: Jessica Schulberg (@jessicaschulb), a foreign affairs reporter at Huffington Post; Ryan Lenz (@LenzSPLC), a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center; Lee Rowland (@berkitron), a senior staff attorney at the ACLU; Sandeep Junnarkar (@sandeep_NYC), the director of interactive journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism; and Marc Lacey (@marclacey), the national news editor at The New York Times. The moderator was J. Alex Tarquinio (@alextarquinio), the president-elect at the Society of Professional Journalists.
Club members, CUNY students and members of other local journalism groups packed the main newsroom of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in Times Square for a lively two-hour conversation about covering hate groups on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. The discussion had been sparked by a series of hate group rallies—as well as threats to free speech and a free press—that rolled across the country in late 2017.
The panel included Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU; Marc Lacey, the national news editor at The New York Times; Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center; Jessica Schulberg, a foreign affairs reporter at Huffington Post; and Sandeep Junnarkar, the director of interactive journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The journalism school co-hosted the event with The Deadline Club, which is the New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
J. Alex Tarquinio, the president-elect at the Society of Professional Journalists, moderated the panel. She kicked off the evening asking about how best to handle controversial terminology in news reports.
Rowland, the only attorney on the panel, said that some terms such as “terrorism” and “hate crime” have legal meanings, and reporters shouldn’t use them unless they are certain the alleged acts fit these legal definitions.
Lacey pointed out that the term “alt-right” hadn’t existed in news reports a year earlier, and said it should be used within quotation marks.
He said the Times was devoting resources to in-depth reporting on hate groups—including their funding, motives and conflicts between the groups—rather than focusing on the spate of recent rallies that have dominated the headlines.
Lacey added that hostile environment training was required for international correspondents at the Times, and he thought it might also be in order now for national correspondents.
The reporters on the panel addressed the issue of safety while covering hate groups. Lenz, who was a war correspondent for the Associated Press before going to work for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that hate groups had tried to menace him at home and online.
Schulberg, the Huffington Post foreign affairs reporter, who has recently begun covering U.S. hate groups such as the Klan and the Neo-Nazis, said she had been worried that her Jewish last name might be a risk factor, but as yet, this hadn’t been an issue because many members of these groups wanted to talk to the press.
Junnarkar discussed the Hateindex.com, which compiles reported hate crimes in a searchable database. He said the idea to start this project at the CUNY journalism school struck him after the 2016 election, as he perceived rising intolerance in the country.