Saturday, February 18, 2012

Updated A Race to Stupid

Update: ESPN bluntly apologized yesterday and today announced that it had fired the headline writer (who wasn't named), and suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days for having asked this, "If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?" Really, the phrase isn't in itself wrong but no one will believe that anything other than stupidity persuaded them to use it.I wonder, too, why the anchor (pictured) gets a suspension while the headline writer gets fired.

What can we say about the foolish "Chink in the Armor" on a Jeremy Lin photo that was put out by ESPN overnight? Several things, actually.

 First, some dope thought it was funny, no doubt, and didn't see anything wrong with it. I don't know if someone's going to claim not to have realized the ethnic slur that it represents. I hope not, because there's really only one reason to use that line with that photo.

 Second, it gets to the heart of my favorite complaint about our culture in recent years, and that is the lack of quality control and accountability. That resonates no doubt with the decreasing number of copy editors in the world but it should also get the attention of news managers who ought to be able to see the damage to their product, as it were.

 Third, diversity. It's not a real popular topic these days. The job market is tight, a generation of people have grown up not recognizing the impetus behind affirmative action, and there's frankly a meanness in the world that sneers at the value and morality of giving anyone a hand up. Diversity means adding more voices to the conversation and while it's not a guarantee nothing stupid will happen, it certainly lessens the chances.

 Fourth, there's the problem of substituting catch phrases, whether from advertising or just common culture, for actual headline writing. I distinctly recall a sports headline reporting the exploits of pitcher Mike Scott; it read "Dread Scott." The person who wrote it knew the sound of the words but didn't realize the awful history of the Dred Scott case.
 No doubt someone will get at least a smack on the hand for the Chink headline; we'll all have a five-minute conversation about the state of race relations and then we'll move on, til the next time.

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