Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reporters reported: Pamela White

Pamela White is not afraid of bias. As editor of the Boulder Weekly, she spends much of her time with reporters, carefully excising bias from their stories. But recently, White has had to carefully consider what bias is to her, and how it affects her journalism.

In 2001, White broke a story about a policy that allowed inmates to be shackled to their beds while in labor. Every year since then, an estimated 50 women have given birth chained to their beds. In February, White published a feature covering the same issue. It received five national journalism awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists' 1st Amendment Award, but failed to change the status quo.

"And so I reached a decision: I would push for a bill myself," said White in a recent column in the Boulder Weekly. She repackaged her information, presented it to lawmakers, then eventually convinced Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, to carry the bill.

White now finds herself doing something many journalists feel would directly tarnish their credibility. Not only is she endorsing, writing about, and advocating the bill, but writing it herself.

"It's a completely new experience for me," she said to a class of reporting students at Metropolitan State College of Denver. "I've never been involved at this level."

She has since removed herself from any reporting on the bill, and now only writes about it in her column.

"Full disclosure is the best thing I can do at this point," said White, who has taken steps to ensure that her readers are aware of her involvement in the bill. Though she was "hesitant to take on the advocacy role," White has asked her readers for support in pushing the bill.

White is known for her human-rights centric reporting, and believes that journalism should provide a "voice for the voiceless."