Illegal immigrants named ‘Texan of the Year’

As much negative feedback we received about our monthlong series on Latinos in our area (we got a lot of good feedback, too), I can only imagine what my phone would do the morning after we did something like this …

Dallas Morning News names illegal immigrants the ‘Texans of the Year’

A snippet of the Dallas Morning News editorial:
He breaks the law by his very presence. He hustles to do hard work many Americans won’t, at least not at the low wages he accepts. The American consumer economy depends on him. America as we have known it for generations may not survive him. We can’t seem to live with him and his family, and if we can live without him, nobody’s figured out how. … To their champions, illegal immigrants are decent, hardworking people who, like generations of European immigrants before them, just want to do better for their families and who contribute to America’s prosperity. They must endure hatred and abuse by those of us who want the benefits of cheap labor but not the presence of illegal immigrants. … Yet to those who want them sent home, illegal immigrants are essentially lawbreakers who violate the nation’s borders. They use public resources – schools, hospitals – to which they aren’t entitled and expect to be served in a foreign language. They’re rapidly changing Texas neighborhoods, cities and culture, and not always for the better. Those who object get tagged as racists.

I talked with Herald reporter Gordon Anderson about this for a little bit, and he thinks anger would evolve because people think “Person of the Year” is supposed to be an “honorable” tag, instead of a literal one. In 2001, Osama Bin Laden was almost a major magazine’s Person of the Year, but the backlash prevented it.
If you think about it, Bin Laden was the 2001 Person of the Year, only because he had the biggest impact, though it was quite negative.

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One thought on “Illegal immigrants named ‘Texan of the Year’

  1. As you suggest above, these awards have been and are sure to continue being a topic debated in many a journalism and philosophy classroom for years to come. But I think the point regarding positive influence versus pure “impact” for a perceived accolade such as “person of the year” does carry some expectation and interpretation as an endorsement of sorts, even if unintended…. perhaps especially and most dangerously by the recipient and their supporters, regardless of the actual content of the story.

    I agree that in the purest sense of the concept, the idea of a “person of the year” could, and perhaps should be morally neutral.

    But we all know we live in a world of inference, unintended perception, and assumptions. And as I was always told, “It is the responsibility of the communicator to guarantee that the message is clear and understood, not the receiver.”

    After all, many readers simply take in a reputable publication’s headline or cover at “face value” without reading the whole story. So if they see someone featured that is meant to be sensational, the reader may misinterpret the award as an endorsement.

    With that in mind, it does concern me when I see “person of the year” awards that feature someone associated more with infamy than say, philanthropy or discovery. It is not my default opinion that any article featuring a person of questionable(or well known) moral deficit is a mistake, but doing so typically does raise my eyebrow and wonder what the motivation was.

    To that end, it is my personal opinion that “person of the year” features should normally commemorate and uplift persons(or things like Time’s 1982 Personal Computer) that contribute positively to our human existence.

    Although to be fair, featuring villains is nothing new, such as Time’s feature of Adolf Hitler in 1938, so perhaps the precedent is well established and my concern is exaggerated.

    But with that in mind, in my opinion the feature of such individuals should be weighed and used judiciously so as not to reduce the value of the feature and dilute the message.

    Now what about the subject of the Dallas Morning News?

    I’ll leave that for another day, as the topic of immigration is complex.

    But I think that when citing a group or thing versus an individual person, an article is much more likely to be morally neutral and non-judgmental by nature. But to some degree, I also think that awarding “person of the year” to any group is something of a cop out.

    After all, I’m sure we all can identify many groups, countries, or even celestial bodies that have had a major impact on our world over the last year. But the award is “person of the year” and that takes some effort and bravery to choose.

    If they want to award “news story of the year” to the immigration debate, that makes more sense to me.

    Awarding a group or thing rarely impresses me as a clever journalistic sleight-of-hand, especially if it happens more frequently.

    Instead it usually just makes me wonder which lead writers for the “person of the year” team were out sick over the holidays *laugh*

    Al

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