Sacramento Bee Asks: Is Not Mentioning Race of Crime Suspects too PC?

September 25, 2007 | Filed Under Crime, Democrats/Leftists, Media Bias, News, Publius Contributor, Race, Security/Safety, Society/Culture, Uncategorized, Warner Todd Huston |

-By Warner Todd Huston

Now, here we have a very interesting debate about journalism, racism, crime and the new media on the internet. The Sacramento Bee has been forced to revisit a long standing, 15-year-old policy this week. It seems that for years the Bee has, for the most part, avoided mentioning the race of a suspected criminal in their crime coverage. They claimed that they only mentioned race when the story was “accompanied by a detailed physical description or when reporting a serial crime or when using police sketches of suspects.” Critics of the paper, however, claim this policy is merely a paean to PCism and this refusal of the paper to mention the race of a suspect makes the Bee’s coverage less than informative and has made it practically useless as a tool of assistance to the police.

As the Bee states in their editorial, “the issue’s volatility has ebbed and flowed, sometimes lying dormant for months only to arise anew in the wake of a particularly heinous crime.”

I am sure that “ebbed and flowed” is an understatement.

Recently, a particularly heinous crime has occurred that brought the Bee’s policy into question once again.

It’s burning white-hot now in the aftermath of the slaying in Sacramento of a young father and his 7-month-old son and the paper’s reluctance until several days had passed to provide racial descriptions of the suspects.

Obviously the Bee was bowing to PCism, of that there can be little doubt. Still, the PC debate is an old, boring one at this point and it seems practically a prerequisite that the lefty MSM is going to hamstring themselves by this PC nonsense.

That being as it may, though, the Bee is finding itself out reported by all the other news media in Sacramento. It seems they are the only ones with this ridiculous, PC policy and their reporting is suffering for it. And people are wondering why they should bother with the SacBee if they can get better, fuller coverage of the story elsewhere. This PCism is hurting them where it counts; in profits.

It is foolish of the paper to arbitrarily censor their own coverage for reasons other than that of reporting a story properly, to be sure. But, the SacBee has faced complaints about their policy for over a decade, so, this particular part of the debate is not really very new at all for them. And until now they have resisted changing their PC policy.

But, this debate is more interesting than the old PC-or-not-PC debate that has raged since the Reagan era. This one has a new twist that makes it more fun to talk about.

That twist is the Internet.

Like every newspaper that is trying to stay relevant, the SacBee has an internet edition. Naturally, their “no race” policy is carried over to the stories they post on the internet. But, the SacBee also has a comment section at the end of each internet posting. And that simple fact has made their own policy absurd.

One is the inconsistency with which the policy has been applied in stories and the other is the Internet, which provides information bypassing The Bee’s standards and thus raising questions about the paper’s relevancy.

For example, The Bee finds itself in the weird position of adhering to its policy at the same time its readers are posting online comments at providing the racial descriptions of the suspects taken from information released by the Sheriff’s Department.

Amusing, no?

Here the Bee is trying to satisfy some ancient, leftist PC “standard,” and right on their own site, their own readers are obviating that policy by posting the racial description of criminals anyway right in the comments section!

The irony is delicious.

So, the SacBee is faced with a dilemma. Do they live up to PCism, or do they stay a relevant news source that services their readership in this new, Internet age?

Any guess as to what the Bee will do?
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as,, men’ and among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston


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3 comments so far
  1. […] of you may remember the story in September of 2007 when the Sacramento Bee announced that they were revisiting their policy of including race in their […]

  2. The Reality Check » Blog Archive » SPJ Suggests ‘Omitting Race’ in Crime Reporting May 11, 2008 11:42 am

    […] of you may remember the story in September of 2007 when the Sacramento Bee announced that they were revisiting their policy of including race in their […]

  3. SPJ Suggests ‘Omitting Race’ in Crime Reporting : Stop The ACLU May 11, 2008 11:43 am

    […] of you may remember the story in September of 2007 when the Sacramento Bee announced that they were revisiting their policy of including race in their […]

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