BLACK VOICES
04/17/2013 06:39 pm ET

Boston Bombing Suspect Description As 'Dark-Skinned Male' Is Offensive, NABJ Says

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The National Association of Black Journalists has released a statement on the reference to the race and physical appearance of the Boston bombing suspect.

CNN's John King, who was the first to report that authorities had identified a suspect in Monday's horrific attack, stirred controversy when he described the individual as a "dark-skinned male."

In its statement, NABJ urged media outlets to use "extreme caution" when reporting on such tragic events and race, in an attempt to avoid perpetuation of stereotyping in the news:

There have been various reports identifying a potential suspect as "a dark-skinned individual". This terminology is not only offensive, but also offers an incomplete picture of relevant facts about the potential person of interest's identity. When conveying information for the public good, and which can help law enforcement with the help of a vigilant public to keep the country safe, it's important that such facts be put into proper context.

NABJ in no way encourages censorship but does encourage news organizations to be responsible when reporting about race, to report on race only when relevant and a vital part of a story. Ultimately this helps to avoid mischaracterizations which might encourage potential bias or discrimination against a person or a group of people based on race or ethnicity.

King said that he was only going to use the "dark-skinned male" description, saying that sometimes information did not turn out to be true.

"I'm making a personal judgment—forgive me, I think it's the right judgment—not to try to inflame tensions," King said. "They say it's a dark-skinned male."

His description conflicted with reports by CBS News that said officials were looking for a white male.

Although the FBI says that no arrest have been made, USA Today reports that investigators are making "major progress" by enhancing and studying an image of someone they believe was involved with the attack.

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