An editorial in Philadelphia's AL DÍA News responds to a recent column in the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com that took aim at the media outlet.
A funny thing happened when we relaunched our new dual language website just over a year ago.
People who had been unable to read our award-winning journalism for the past 20+ years (except on the select occasions we chose to publish an editorial or investigative piece in English) were now able to read in English nearly all the work we do — from the story about Latina astronaut Ellen Ochoa to the one about a young Philly Dreamer graduating from high school with honors; from videos about bilingual millennials to North Philly entrepreneurs; from an in-depth look at police shootings of Latinos to exhaustive mayoral race coverage.
We know a much more diverse Philadelphia and national audience is visiting our website and reading our stories since we became dual language. That readership includes our media colleagues.
And like the Latino community itself, as we grow more visible and undeniable, we face backlash for our audacity in believing ourselves equal to every other community in our city (and nation), and for raising our voices. We face micro-aggressions and attacks for the audacity of expressing our opinions clearly, confidently, and most of all, publicly.
This Saturday the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com published a column by columnist Stu Bykofsky ridiculing and attempting to rebut an editorial we wrote urging Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey not to rescind the curbs on the Secure Communities program Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter instituted several years ago. (We’d link to his column — something Bykofsky didn’t have the integrity to do with our editorial in his rebuttal — but Philly.com took it down sometime last night.)
It is not the first time Bykofsky has taken umbrage at what we write concerning undocumented immigrants — he’s on the record as calling them felons in his columns, we’re on the record as contesting that characterization. There is much we could contest in his latest column (if the column were still up), starting from the fact he called us a Spanish-language newspaper when he clearly read our editorial in English in print or on our website or from our newsletter.
But the truth is that Bykofsky’s column itself is irrelevant. It is the headline that caught our attention.
The headline (you can see it in the screen capture above) goes beyond a clickbait ploy to get attention online, it is a deliberate misrepresentation of the content. It is a libelous statement that pretends to be fact and which would lead the casual “headlines only” reader to erroneously conclude that it was about something other than vastly divergent opinions about the use of ICE holds in the city of Philadelphia. Moreover, it seems a barely veiled intent to do damage to an independent media organization the headline-writer thinks is uppity and needs to be smacked down, even if it takes outright manipulation of the truth to do so.
It is also an egregious violation of the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics, part of which states, “Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.” The SPJ further elaborates: “While it is important for journalists to be succinct — oversimplification that removes integral facts, or is in the service of manipulation is a violation of some of the Society’s basic principles.”
Maybe Bykofsky wrote the headline for his column, maybe not, but whichever member of the editorial team was on staff let it be published — and so gave the defamatory slander both the Daily News’ and Philly.com’s imprimatur. And despite taking the column and egregious headline down, they haven't offered an apology for it.
Why would members of the city’s largest media conglomerate — a conglomerate with much greater economic resources and a significantly larger audience than AL DÍA — bother to punch down in such a crass and easily reproachable way?
We don’t know, of course, but we can tell you what we suspect is at least part of the answer ...
Because that media conglomerate seemingly views Latinos — their media colleagues and any who are part of their readership who might have seen the headline and read the column — as second-class citizens. Can you imagine them approving that headline if it were a Philadelphia Magazine’s opinion piece they disagreed with? Or any commentaries by the English-language network affiliates in our city?
The attempt to silence and shut down our opinion via a headline rife with innuendo and misrepresentation is an attempt to forestall reality: Latinos are an integral part of our city and nation, and we refuse to be treated as second-class citizens.
AL DÍA is a multi-platform media organization that is unapologetic about being a tireless Latino voice, weighing in on every every aspect of living in our city, our nation, our world. We refuse to let our Latino community be walled off from the rest of Philadelphia. We refuse to let our Latino community — regardless of documentation status or national origin or neighborhood of residence — remain unseen and unheard.
We may only have a slingshot with which to respond to the armies of those who would seek to silence us and put us back in the dark and dim background where they apparently think we belong, but we will not stand down.