USA Today Takes the Bait

USA Today Takes the Bait
Photo:Robert Alexander (Getty Images)

Today Hemal Jhaveri, a USA Today employee with almost eight years at the paper, published a blog on Medium saying she’d recently been fired from her position as the “race and inclusion” editor of For the Win, the publication’s sports vertical, over an offending tweet. In other words: Facing manufactured pressure from a bad-faith right-wing ecosystem hellbent on false equivalencies, USA Today took the bait.

On Monday night, in the immediate aftermath of news of the Boulder, Colorado shooting at a grocery store, Jhaveri wrote in a reply to another reporter that “It’s always an angry white man. always.” The comment was perhaps unwise given the notoriously mercurial nature of breaking news in the early hours of a mass shooting event. But given the overwhelmingly white and male profile of mass shooters it is, in the moment, a sensible assumption.

The shooter, of course, did not turn out to be a white guy, and Jhaveri’s tweeted reply (now deleted) was immediately picked up and disseminated by the right-wing internet ecosystem as proof the liberal media was biased against white people and/or racist (against whites.) Naturally it follows from there the tweet was the subject of blogs in the Washington Examiner, the Blaze, and in two separate reports on Fox News.

Not one to waste an opportunity to show it was just as sensitive to racism against white people as other, actually endemic systemic and institutional biases against people of color, the editors of USA Today axed Jhaveri. As she writes:

In the email announcing that I had been fired, USA TODAY’s standards and ethics editor said I had been previously disciplined for a similar situation, but did not offer specifics. In my recollection, there are only two other tweets I’ve sent that USA TODAY found problematic. In one tweet, from roughly 2017, I called out a reporter’s white privilege. In another, from 2018, I pushed back against a USA TODAY Sports column, because the piece dismissed the human rights violations in Qatar as “a little on the repressive side.”
My previous tweets were flagged not for inaccuracy or for political bias, but for publicly naming whiteness as a defining problem. That is something USA TODAY, and many other newsrooms across the country, can not tolerate.

Leaving aside the question of whether reporters should be allowed to tweet their opinions in the interest of giving readers a better sense of who is actually producing the news, it might strike one as interesting that the right-wing internet, so fixated on “cancel culture,” has succeeded in actually cancelling a reporter in a way both more materially and ideologically consequential than, say, a couple racist Dr. Suess books being pulled.

On her blog, Jhaveri posted a few screenshots of the sorts of messages she was getting on Twitter; you could also take a look at her mentions, though I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. As the reporter writes: “Sending one wrong tweet that ended up in the hands of Sean Hannity on Fox News though, was enough for this publication to turn tail.”

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