Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Paper sorry for 'Jewish descent' reference

Readers of Colorado's Vail Daily were offended by an article that said a burglary suspect was “of Jewish or Eastern European descent.”

The paper apparently decided to use the offensive term after getting a news release from the sheriff's department that said the suspect had “dark hair, large nose, pierced ears, narrow face and eyes that were close together.”

But the sheriff never used the term “of Jewish or Eastern European descent" -- that was something the Vail Daily staff created on their own, according to a story by Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick.
    Similar articles have routinely included suspects described as Hispanic or white, with no expressions of outrage from readers. ...

    Our readers point out that while mentioning ethnicity is always a slippery slope, using “Jewish descent” is a bit different because Judaism is, first of all, a religion. They argue we probably wouldn't describe a suspect in a suspect as Christian or Muslim. They're probably right.

    On the other hand, many Jews — some of whom observe and some of whom don't observe the religion — consider Judaism to be their ethnicity and their culture. Eastern European Jews often don't feel connected to any one country. That's because their families originated in territories that either changed hands between governments or their families had to flee their villages under threat of massacre and death. Many of these Jews, therefore, think of their Jewishness in the same way their neighbors identify themselves as Irish, Mexican, Swedish or Japanese.

    Because of that — and in the press of deadline — we found it appropriate that someone could be described as looking Jewish.
According to Zalaznick, two editors saw the "Jewish descent" reference before the paper was printed. It appears nobody lost their job over this one.