AAJA calls on news organizations to exercise care in Pyeongchang Olympics coverage


The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) calls on news organizations to exercise care in their coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics and provide accurate and fair portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans involved in the Games.

Some recent news and commentary have raised concerns. A few examples:

During the Opening Ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Games, an NBC analyst angered Koreans with his remark that cited Japan as an example that has been important to South Korea’s cultural, technological and economic transformation. A petition demanded an apology from NBC for the comments, which critics said overlooked the history of Japan’s brutality during its occupation of Korea during the World War II-era. NBC has since apologized and the analyst will have no further role on the air during the Pyeongchang games.

During a WLS-Ch. 7 morning broadcast on Sat. Feb. 10, the station confused Olympics-host city Pyeongchang with P.F. Chang’s in a graphic. P.F. Chang’s is an Asian-inspired chain restaurant in the U.S. A spokesperson for the ABC affiliate in Chicago said that the goof was the result of a mix-up and has apologized for the gaffe.

An Op-ed writer for The New York Times tweeted a salute to American ice skater Mirai Nagasu, saying  “Immigrants: they get the job done,” after Mirai Nagasu became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition. The writer deleted the tweet after being criticized and explained she used poetic license in quoting the line from the Broadway show “Hamilton.” Nagasu was born in California, and the tweet perpetuates the stereotype that Asian Americans, immigrants or not, are perpetual foreigners who can’t be true Americans.

Even the pronunciation of Pyeongchang has raised concerns with NBC’s decision to have announcers say the last syllable so it rhymes with “tang.” The correct pronunciation is with an “ahh” sound. See AAJA MediaWatch's video on how to pronounce Pyeongchang here.

AAJA applauds the news outlets and journalists that have acknowledged problems. As always, AAJA is available to engage in a dialogue to foster fair and accurate coverage of the Asian American community.


Photo from Republic of Korea/Flickr