EDITOR’S NOTE: The following appears in the July 26, 2004, issue of National Review, a special issue made possible by the Media Research Center.
When President Bush announced his illegal-immigrant amnesty plan in January, the media were abuzz — and rightly so. It’s their relative silence on immigration the rest of the time that bothers Lou Dobbs — who, with his regular “Broken Borders” segment on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, does more than his part to compensate.
Dobbs’s continuing immigration “beat” is something rare among print publications, and practically nonexistent in broadcast journalism. Dobbs began looking at immigration as a post-9/11 homeland-security matter, but found that “ancillary issues, like the economic and social impact, were not debated. There has been a critical failure on the part of policymakers in this area.”
Dobbs and his correspondents report a few times weekly on a wide range of issues affected by immigration, from overcrowding in schools to the plight of ranch owners living near the Mexican border. They untangle the complex web of U.S. immigration policy to provide real answers and to educate America’s public (and its leaders).
This work sets Dobbs apart, and earned him this year’s Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration (from the Center for Immigration Studies). While most broadcast coverage of immigration relies heavily on human-interest sob stories, Dobbs looks past this low-hanging fruit to pursue the facts — talking to all sides, and looking at all angles.
This has exposed Dobbs to some harsh — if irrational — criticism: “When we started to talk about illegal immigration we had hundreds, maybe thousands [of e-mails] — basically accusing me of being a racist.” This may be part of why so few journalists take immigration seriously. But Dobbs also blames a media “orthodoxy” that “constrains the rigorous examination of issues. We try very hard every day to break through that, and border security is a very important issue to do it on.”