Call to Journalists: Return to Your Abandoned Professional Standards

On New Year’s Eve, The Washington Postpublished a shockingly biased, even as measured in the current shoddy journalism era, Op-Ed piece. Titled “The Demographic Time Bomb that Could Hit America,” the commentary reflects the author’s opinion that declining population would represent many dramatic societal challenges.

Crucial details though are omitted, perhaps purposely. Specifically, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2060 the United States is projected to grow by 79 million people, from today’s 326 million to 404 million. Population is not in decline as the column infers. Far from it, population is projected to cross the 400-million threshold in 2058.

Calling all Posteditors! Publishing a column about declining population’s perils when population is in fact soaring is an example of why the mainstream media’s trustworthiness remains well below poll numbers from decades back in the public’s eye.

According to the Post, in 2017, the U.S. had the fewest babies born in the last 30 years – nearly 3.9 million births, down 2 percent from 2016. The birth decline is statistical fact, but then the Post’sspeculation runs wild. Fewer births would mean fewer workers, and therefore a smaller economy and a reduced tax base to collect the revenues that pay for vital social services.

The Post’simmigration advocacy likely explains the half-truth column. The author, Catherine Rampell, called for “a more liberal immigration system,” and noted that “immigrants … tend to have more babies than do native-born Americans.” But surprisingly, at least to supporters of fair and balanced journalism, Rampell ignored the key Census Bureau fact that immigrants and their children are population growth’s leading drivers. The Pew Hispanic Center took the current population growth rate trends and, assuming that they remain unchanged, projected that by 2065 – a slightly longer timeline than the Census Bureau used – immigrants and their children will account for 88 percent of the increase. 

Editors have an organization that claims to pursue the highest journalistic standards. In 1922, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, renamed in 2009 as the American Society of News Editors, was formed to advance its profession, and to that end, wrote a code of ethics for members to adhere to. Currently, the ASNE posted and thereby endorsed the Columbia Journalism Review’sguidelines for immigration stories: “Look at immigrant connections and contributions to industry, economy, religion, education, culture and family life.” Okay to all that. But there’s another part of the immigration tale that must be, because it affects all Americans including immigrants, included.

The Census Bureau facts and the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of that data represent vitally important information that Postreaders and, for that matter, all Americans should know, especially during the Trump era when immigration dominates the daily news cycle. Many Americans are conflicted about immigration, and deserve to know both sides of the argument. After all, the population increases between today and the mid-2060s represent about a 25 percent bump. If Americans were asked how they feel about 25 percent more people in their already overcrowded neighborhoods, schools and hospitals and on highways, most would be overwhelmingly opposed.

Instead of the full, unvarnished story, readers routinely get a set of cherry-picked facts that the media, abandoning its professional responsibilities, puts forward. Time for the truth, and let the nation come to its own conclusions.