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Drexel Now: Journalists Failed Japanese Americans during World War II

Manzaar, by Ansel Adams, Library of Congress
Manzaar, by Ansel Adams, Library of Congress

A journalist’s role today is to ask tough questions, hold authorities accountable and give voice to the voiceless.

An analysis by Ron Bishop of Drexel University’s Department of Communication found that journalists failed to do their jobs during World War II in their coverage of the incarceration of Japanese Americans, reports Drexel Now.

Coverage heralded the camps as an economic boom, providing jobs to those hired to build the camps and work in them.

“The equivalent today would be officials in a city or town talking about how great it would be for a major manufacturer or big box store to set up shop there,” Bishop said. “It’s a completely different narrative than we saw in coverage of the camps by the big West Coast dailies. They briefly – very briefly – gave Japanese-Americans the chance in articles to discuss their patriotism, but then, when the government fabricated news of spying, coverage turned ugly.

“Coverage had a bizarre ‘we’re all in this together’ flavor at times,” Bishop said. “I guess it’s more accurate to say that the journalists tried desperately to persuade their readers that they should think of the incarceration that way.”

Bishop put his findings in his new book Community Newspapers and the Japanese-American Incarceration Camps: Community, Not Controversy co authored by Morgan Dudkewitz, Renee Daggett and Alissa Falcone.

A journalist role in society was quite different in 1942 than it is today. You can read about that in Drexel Now.

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