The PC police have been working overtime. On July 7, a group of them at the Asian American Journalists Association took the Chicago Sun-Times to task for its front-page headline — “Fright 214” — which the AAJA MediaWatch division saw as a perpetuation of the stereotypical Asian accent, where r’s and l’s (known linguistically as liquids) get swapped out. The article, after all, did cover the Asiana Airline tragedy, so is it possible the paper was going for a double entendre?
According to Sun-Times Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk, the answer is a flat-out no. He told MediaWatcher Bobby Calvan that it never dawned on his editors that the play on words could be construed as offensive:
There was nothing intentional on our part to play off any stereotypes.… If anybody was offended by that, we are sorry. We were trying to convey the obviously frightening situation of that landing.
So is AAJA ready to forgive and forget? Judge for yourself. Here is Calvan’s reaction:
While we at the Asian American Journalists Association are willing to give the Sun-Times the benefit of the doubt, the headline used to accompany the paper’s coverage was certainly unfortunate. An editor should have caught the racially tinged wording….
While some might not be satisfied with Kirk’s response, we appreciate his quickness in responding to MediaWatch’s request for an explanation and for engaging in a conversation about fair and accurate coverage of our communities.
If the Sun-Times’ copy desk is like many others in newsrooms across the nation, it probably lacked the diversity of voices on staff that might have questioned the appropriateness of the headline.
AAJA stands ready to help bring greater diversity to America’s newsrooms, and AAJA urges news organizations like the Sun-Times to do more to build newsrooms that reflect the diversity of our nation.
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