Illegal immigration – Viewer unrest continues

The emotion surrounding the issue of U.S. immigration policy, and the relationship between that policy and Arizona’s newly enacted law, continues to be an issue that generates frequent viewer complaints.  As in the past, the same story often results in complaints from viewers on both sides of the issue – each suggesting the story was unfair, or incomplete.

Last week NBC10 reported on a rally held in Providence subsequent to a U.S. District court judge’s ruling that portions of the Arizona law are unconstitutional.  The story was about the rally, and included interviews with rally participants, and ended with a brief recitation, by the reporter, of each side’s position on the underlying issue.

A viewer from Coventry emailed:

I just watched that totally biased story on immigration.  No opposing viewpoints were entered.  The word illegal was never used.  Who are you trying to fool?  That was a most awfully unbalanced report. I found it totally offensive that you had no ENGLISH speakers.  Why only those who refuse to adequately learn our language?

From another viewer:

Your (reporter) on the immigration rally story unfairly interviewed and showed on camera only people who spoke with Hispanic accents.  There are many Americans who believe the Arizona law is unconstitutional and discriminatory.  Interviewing only native Spanish speakers makes it appear to be a “them against us” issue.

Another couple who said they are infrequent NBC10 viewers said they were not happy when they tuned in that night:

My wife and I  . . .  decided to watch channel 10 news today and we were disappointed to watch your coverage of about “10” people at the State House demonstrating against the Arizona law.  We, of course, appreciate their right to demonstrate but you gave this small group a very significant amount of time with little, if any,  attempt to balance their perspective despite the fact that most US citizens support the law.  Even Fox and MSNBC make some attempt to discuss opposing views and they present themselves as opinion journalism.

This is not an issue that can be unfamiliar to even the most casual observer of the news. Every story on the immigration issue can’t, and needn’t, include a full recitation of each side’s position. Every story about an abortion (or antiabortion) rally or demonstration doesn’t include an overview of each side’s arguments – everyone knows what they are.  Similarly, everyone knows the immigration arguments and those arguments don’t change whether those interviewed refer to those crossing the border as called “undocumented” or “illegal.”

Last week’s story was about a rally being held by those opposed to the Arizona law. As such, the short time given to the  explanation of the pro-Arizona position was reasonable.

This column was originally published on, the Web site of WJAR -TV, on August 04, 2010.

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