Hold news companies accountable for harmful mistakes


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The Editorial Board

During a broadcast of “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir” on Feb. 14, Grace Lee, an Asian American community activist, was misidentified as Michelle Go who was pushed onto train tracks at the Times Square subway station on Jan. 15.

To add insult to injury, the broadcast was reporting on the vigil for 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee, who was followed home and murdered on Feb. 13.

This perpetuates the harmful idea that people of color are interchangeable with each other. While the news cycle may refer to these incidents as gaffes and move on, media companies should be held to a higher standard of accountability.

First, an integral aspect of journalism is verifying sources and facts.

Having the correct first name, last name, age and other relevant information to a story is fundamental. ABC specifically invited Lee onto its program and their misidentification of Lee bolsters claims that the network is careless in its reporting.

Second, ABC’s mistake came at a time where the nation is rife with anti-Asian hate crimes.

In fact, the number of these crimes increased by 339% in 2021.  Incorrectly identifying Lee as a murdered Asian American woman hurts the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities because it desensitizes society to the attacks and reduces victims to a single statistic in a larger trend.

Although ABC apologized for its mistake to the American Asian Journalism Association, a nonprofit focused on improving diversity in media, in a press release the AAJA highlighted that this is not the first time a media company has confused a person of color with someone of the same race.

“In a separate incident during the Super Bowl pre-show on Feb. 13, 2022, NBC mixed up two Black women,” the AAJA wrote. “The network displayed graphics to introduce R&B singer Jhené Aiko (who is also of Asian descent), but instead panned to country singer Mickey Guyton. We commend NBC for their apology.

The Editorial Board agrees with the AAJA’s argument that news outlets must have extensive and fact-checked coverage of different communities with cultural consciousness.

“Accidental misidentification of names can perpetuate and further exacerbate the erasure and otherizing that minority communities have historically faced,” the nonprofit wrote.