No one should be terribly surprised that the UNC Muslim Students Association and lots of other people went ballistic. The opinion editor fired Bandes, not for expressing her noxious opinion in favor of racial profiling (which he disagree with), but for misusing quotes she strung together from various Islamic figures on campus to make it seem that they supported racial profiling.
Here's how editor Chris Colleta explained his action:
Let's get that again:"Their quotes were wrong, even if the words were correct." That seems to me a higher standard than I expect from journalists, but perhaps a right one. Colleta is saying that journalists must not misrepresent the intentions of people they interview, even if perhaps their literal words might allow some fuzziness about their meaning.
The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics, "Seek Truth and Report It," rather surprisingly, contains nothing that directly addresses this issue of using quotations in such a way that they misrepresent the speakers. Perhaps they consider this conduct such a horrible fault as to be unthinkable. Yet sources are always complaining about being misquoted. Perhaps the real problem is that writers too often don't understand what their sources meant, so their use of quotes is false, because they just don't get it.
Unlike the editor who fired her, I do think Bandes' column was racist on its face. Consider this:
Huh? This is internally inconsistent balderdash. She lists a lot of horrible people who've done terrible things, none of them Arabs (except those Palestinians) -- and then insists most terrorists are Arabs. Such contradictory assertions, rooted in bigotry, are the essence of racism.
The Society of Professional Journalists does speak out against racism in reporting. They urge: "Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status." That ought to cover the above.
Those of us who blog take it on ourselves to be journalists. This nasty little episode reminds me that even though I am writing opinion, I owe it to the people I comment on not to intentionally misconstrue their words. That ought to be obvious, but I don't regret the reminder.