Letter: No need to ID race, religion
The Aspen Times recently published an article about the purchase of the Golden Horn building. A few of my friends directed me to the article because they thought it odd that the buyer was identified by only three elements: his home town, his religion and his family’s ethnic background. The home town seemed like a relevant fact (we are always interested in who is buying real estate in Aspen’s core), but religion and ethnicity didn’t seem relevant to his purchase of the building, his intended use of it, the building’s history or any other subject covered in the story. It just seemed so gratuitous.
When I asked The Aspen Times why it chose to feature the buyer’s religion and ethnicity, I was told “that is what his family is known for” and that it added context to the story. Maybe some people know the family mainly by their religion and ethnicity. But an easy Googling of the buyer and his family revealed they also are known for a number of successful business investments and wide-ranging philanthropy. I thought the business successes of the purchaser sounded more relevant than religion as context for a story about a local real estate investment. And since that information was readily available to The Aspen Times, but excluded from “what the buyer is known for,” the explanation was not entirely satisfying.
I know the author of the article and the management of The Aspen Times. None of them are biased for or against any religion, race or ethnic group as far as I can tell. But I think better judgment could be used in describing “what people are known for.” It even might be good policy to consciously avoid identifying people by religion, race or ethnicity unless that is actually important to understand the story and its context. Tossing in gratuitous references to religion, race and ethnicity when they aren’t part of the story only begs the question: Why? Once the question is raised, The Aspen Times ought to have a good answer.
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