Blacks speak out at UM Diamondback is criticized as insensitive, racist

November 05, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The student newspaper at the University of Maryland is at worst racist, or at best incompetent.

That was the message delivered to editors of the Diamondback at a campus forum last night.

The criticisms came three days after some 10,000 copies of the newspaper were taken in a protest over its supposed racist nature, and a day after a large student rally against campus racism.

Tim Milton, a black graduate student, warned Diamondback editors that they had better improve the newspaper's coverage of the black campus community, particularly its fraternities.

"If it continues, you can expect more of your papers to be stolen," Mr. Milton said to applause from many in the crowd of about 180.

The criticisms ranged from the general to the specific, such as the paper's handling of the suspension of a prominent black fraternity, which, several students said, was overplayed.

But the overall message was that the paper is out of touch with black students, who make up about 12 percent of the undergraduate student body.

Drew Weaver, editor-in-chief of the Diamondback, acknowledged that the newspaper could do a better job covering black campus life.

"You have a staff with a lot of white students that tend to ignore the other communities because they don't have strong ties to them," said Mr. Weaver, who is white.

Their mistakes are not made "because they're racist," Mr. Weaver added. "It may be because they're inattentive or ignorant."

"I will tell you categorically that the Diamondback is not racist," said Raja Mishra, editorial page editor. "Is it not sensitive? Perhaps. A lot of us have not been told what we should be sensitive to."

Two of the 19 editors of the Diamondback are black.

"If you have a problem with the Diamondback, go work there," said Brian W. Morton, a black former news editor at the newspaper and now press secretary to U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, There was even some criticism last night for stories about blacks on campus that were generally positive.

Corey Dade, editor of the Black Explosion magazine on campus, criticized the Diamondback's coverage of a program to bring 14 talented black youths from Washington to the university. Mr. Dade said, "You have to read between the lines" to know there are more than 14 talented black students in the District of Columbia.

Several students said they were skeptical that much good came from the exchange.

"I think they're just bickering," said Michael Newman, a black senior.

"It's not just enough to realize that racism exists. Nobody has come up with an effective solution."

Garnetta Dixon, a black freshman, said the editors might have heard the message.

"But I think it was going in one ear and out the other," she said.

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