So my friends, they've flipped the script on us...
The Entryway is a multi-media project where two white-girls decide to live in a home with immigrant Latino families, to learn Spanish. (If you haven't been keeping up, you can here.)
In his LA Times' column, James Rainey makes the case that as flawed as The Entryway's content may be - and even though a bunch "of journalists, academics and lawyers from many ethnicities" found The Entryway offensive - "more disturbing, and wrongheaded, is the way some of the critics would bury a project, and a couple of aspiring journalists, who have barely gotten started."
While I don't necessarily have a problem with "experiential" journalism if it's done well, I do find it ironic that we're flipping the script.
I grew up back in the day when people-of-color were doing mostly "experiential journalism" and they were getting SLAMMED for it.
Media establishments like the Knight Foundation didn't herald them as cutting edge. Instead, they told people like me: Go learn journalism with a capitol "J" and then let's talk.
And you know what? I agreed! I thought those "experiential" pieces were bull sh*t!
If I had to hear one more first-person story about some Asian chick learning lessons on life while cooking with her grandmother, I was going to puke! (Full Disclosure: I've been working on a doc about my dead grandmother teaching me the lessons of life while making Kim-Chi.)
I found "their musings [came] across as naive, off-point and overly self-referential" to crib Rainey's description of The Entryway .
The odd thing is that while Rainey won't defend the The Entryway's content, he's willing to launch a full-frontal attack on Daniel Hernandez -- a blogger who also reports for the LA Times' Mexico City bureau -- and really on all of us journalist with an immigrant background who dare cast a critical eye on The Entryway's take on immigration.
But I digress: A lot of us decided to learn Journalism. We learned to gather the facts, give them context and not to be "naive," as Rainey lovingly calls The Entryway ladies.
We learned not to navel gaze, as had been the case in "ethnic" journalism for so long.
We put in our time at mainstream papers and learned to tell people what we're writing about them and then put their response on record. And now that's being called "elitist." God forbid the people you're writing about actually know what you're saying about them!
Now "context" and "fact-gathering," don't matter as long as you have what Rainey calls "open and empathetic hearts."
(And by the way, I'll say this again for the team -- Daniel Hernandez, Gustavo Arellano, Ophelia Chong, Dennis Romero and the dozens of other reporters who've weighed in on this -- WE DON'T CARE THAT THEY'RE WHITE!!!
We're not talking 1990s identity politics. I, for one, don't want to be condemned to a life of covering all things Asian! And I wouldn't demand such a thing of The Entryway women.
What I have a problem with is the project's basic lack of empathy, understanding, or respect for the family they're writing about. I'd have the same problem if they were writing about a family from Appalachia or Beverly Hills for that matter.)
Immigration is a subject that the majority of us Angelenos have a complex, passionate and intimate connection to. If you step into the fray, expect critiques.
But why is it that when we weigh in with critiques about the way immigration is covered (which I rarely do), folks like Rainey make shrill pronouncements that we're sending the The Entryway ladies to a "firing squad [rather] than to a reeducation camp." And that, "The punishment far outstrips the crime."
Speaking of "reeducation" KPCC's CyberFrequencies did invite The Entryway women to what we promised would be a "civil" round table with Gustavo Arellano in the hopes having some "teachable moments" - and I mean that on both sides of the issue. And I truly believe we all have something to learn here, though until it happens I'm not sure what it is. But Kara Mears and Devin Browne declined to come on the show.
Instead they chose to speak to Rainey, but honestly, how much do you really learn from somebody who feels exactly like you do?
So I'd like to invite Kara and Devin out for a beer in the World Wide World. We live in the same city and I really would like to know who they are and what they think. We can talk about their project on or off record, or we can just hang out. Drinks are on me.
***CORRECTION: this corrects the previous version, where we called it The "Entryguey" -- cribbing the term from an unidentified Latino reporter. A friend told me "guey" is a derogatory term in Spanish -- this is what I get for using a language I only marginally understand! In the future I'll stick to Korean, calling it "Ent-lee-way" which is how my family would pronounce it.