Ast. Editor of Islamic Horizons Discusses Accuracy of Reporting on Muslims
Last week, Deanna Othman, assistant editor of ISNA’s magazine, Islamic Horizons attended a national media conference in which she spoke as a panelist on the subject of the portrayal of Muslims in the media. The panel took place at the Annual Convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in Indianapolis, IN, and consisted of three speakers including Othman. The session was moderated by Bobby King, religion editor for the Indianapolis Star.
The panel presented a valuable opportunity to discuss how media can more accurately represent Muslims and minorities in reporting to editorial and opinion writers from across the nation. Journalists from DC, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and many other states were in attendance. Often, writers of opinion pieces base their work on information that they get from major talking heads and pundits. Among other topics, Othman discussed how editorialists should go to reliable sources to learn and write about Islam, ISNA being among them.
Panelists also discussed their experiences as Muslims in America post 9/11, what they felt about the way the media handled the depiction of the Muslim community, and whether they faced personal incidences of discrimination. Participants were also interested in learning whether panelists had chances to openly explain their beliefs or if they face a more hostile environment when questioned about their religion post 9/11. Issues of identity among second generation Muslims and extremism in the Muslim population were also discussed.
The editorial writers also had an opportunity to discuss the use of appropriate terminology with the panelists. They talked about the impact of using the words “radical,” versus “extremist,” or Islamists.” Othman explained, “It’s important that editorial reporters base their opinion on sound information.” The opinion pieces they write impact the judgment of their audiences, which can have broader policy implications. For instance, Othman commented on how many of the journalists wanted to learn more about the term Sharia. “They were interested in why ‘sharia’ has become such a buzzword in media as a scare tactic. They had a lack of understanding of what the term actually means and it was good we were there to help clarify,” said Othman.