A front-page headline in the Chicago Sun-Times provoked debate after Saturday’s Asiana airline tragedy in San Francisco. Some who saw the tabloid’s cover took offense, contending that the headline –“Fright 214” — perpetuated the oft-used stereotype of an Asian accent.
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.
In a brief telephone conversation on Sunday, Sun-Times Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said it didn’t dawn 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,” Kirk added.
“We were trying to convey the obviously frightening situation of that landing,” Kirk said.
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.
Bobby Caina Calvan