Sunday, 12 February 2012

NY Times ignores WWII Townsville black mutiny story

The New York Times holds a particular place in the English-speaking world. Especially for Americans, it is the "newspaper of record", which means that the paper (confides that it) feels an obligation to cover every newsworthy story that occurs in the world on a given day. It has a reputation for being (what Americans call) "liberal", as does the UK's Guardian, another news vehicle with a special profile in the English-speaking world. Both papers stand out in these two respects, which makes it rather surprising that neither covered the biggest story with a US angle to come out of Australia for many weeks, if not months. I mean, of course, reports of a mutiny by African-American soldiers in 1942 at Townsville that were unearthed by a history researcher named Ray Holyoak and which became public when the story appeared on the ABC's AM radio program on Friday. Among US media organisations, the Voice of America covered the story but it is an outwardly-aimed service that broadcasts in markets without the US. In Australia, Fairfax broadsheet website the Brisbane Times rushed to pick up coverage by Saturday and Rupert Murdoch's Australian did likewise. But in the US there has been a curious silence.

It's hard to account for this silence. When floods inundated large parts of Queensland in January 2011 the New York Times was on the story quickly and had soon posted a link on the top page of its website. It did the same when Australia elected Julia Gillard prime minister in 2010. Both stories are newsworthy although neither has a US angle. For the paper to disregard the Holyoak story is exceptionally strange as it has a strong US angle, involves a dead president (Lyndon Johnson), and concerns the type of clear injustice that the paper usually responds to positively in providing coverage of events overseas.

If anyone has a clue why this story has been ignored by the New York Times, I'd be interested in hearing about it, so leave a comment if you are inclined.


RayHolyoak said...

Thanks for the great blog Matthew. For the record, the Townsville Bulletin hasn't picked it up here either. So I won't be too offended if the NY Times doesn't.

Great coverage by ABC, The Australian, SBS and various others though.

Follow up article in todays Australian too.

Sincerely, Ray Holyoak

Will said...

Those were the times. Racism in America and racism in Australia which had a White Australia Policy (Immigration Restriction Act). Even after the introduction in 1975 of the Racial Discrimination Act, I had personally witnessed how common racism was throughout Australia, particularly in the 'outback. Australian city dwellers would have you believe that today, racism only exists in the US.

RayHolyoak said...

For the record, the Townsville Bulletin did mention the story the following Wed & Thurs.

The Taipei Times have made mention but so far the only mainstream US paper has been a very positive article by C. Jack Ellis in the Macon Telegraph, Georgia.