Station Shows Mind-blowing Lack of Self-Awareness
The incident over the weekend in which an ESPN.com editor was fired for using the headline “Chink in the Armor” on a story about the New York Knicks and sensation Jeremy Lin losing their first game since Lin became a starter has been a hot topic everywhere this week.
Naturally the topic has been discussed on WEEI, and while the hosts discussing the issues do manage some thoughtful commentary, it is completely invalidated by the embarrassing lack of self-awareness or just plain willful ignorance the station has shown in ignoring their own history in the same area.
Yesterday, Glenn Ordway was talking about the subject, and how he believes that Anthony Federico should not have been fired, and that media outlets and society in general are too quick to just fire or suspend people when mistakes are made. (I tend to agree.)
Ordway argued that instead of firing or suspending that the time should be taken for the topic to be discussed, and thus educate people on why such things are offensive, and perhaps all could benefit and heal from the lessons learned. Sounds good.
Then Ordway presented his example. He cited when Bob Ryan was suspended from the Boston Globe for a month in 2003 for saying in a discussion about the self-promoting ways of Joumana Kidd, (which included using her son as a TV prop) that someone needed to “smack her.” Ordway opined Ryan was not advocating domestic violence (again, I agree) and that instead of being suspended and silenced on the matter, that Ryan should have been given the opportunity to explain himself, perhaps in a column, and that dialogue should’ve been opened on the topic, and that discussing the matter would help in healing.
All sounds perfectly reasonable. But why choose to criticize the Globe for its handling of the matter, and ignore his own employer’s handling of a matter that much more closely resembles the Lin matter because it was tied to race? I’m speaking of course, about the Metco incident in which John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were each suspended for two weeks later in 2003, (so after the Ryan incident) for a racially insensitive comment.
At the time of the incident, Ordway and WEEI would not discuss the matter at all. It became a running joke that Ordway would always decline to talk about it because he claimed he hadn’t heard the tapes of the incident, and in fact that the tapes had been “lost.”
So apparently the Globe should’ve allowed the Ryan incident to be discussed and dialogue opened on the matter, but not when WEEI hosts made insensitive comments?In the time that I listened yesterday, Metco was not brought up at all. Perhaps it was, and I didn’t hear it, but in the time I listened, it was not brought up, so it certainly was not a significant part of the discussion.
It says a couple of things about Ordway, either he’s protecting his WEEI colleagues (likely) or he doesn’t put it in the same category as the Federico and Ryan incidents. That too can go two ways; does Ordway believe that what D&C said was not intentionally insensitive? Or does he believe it WAS intentional, but not insensitive?
Either way, to completely ignore an incident that occurred on your own airwaves and instead mention something from another media outlet, is completely disingenuous.
I listened to some of Dennis and Callahan this morning, and their commentary on the matter. They referenced the ESPN Ombudsman column from Poynter, and some of the comments from Stephen A. Smith on the matter (who was actually very good) and generally went with the view that Federico as well as Max Bretos and Spero Dedes, who also used the term, all did so without any malicious racial intentions whatsoever. Their conclusion seems to be basically that this is another example of the politically correct world gone mad. (So those who used the term are the persecuted victims here.)
Even when a caller who claimed to be Asian-American attempted to explain that the term, no matter how it was used was offensive to him, even though he believed it not to be used in an intentionally malicious manner by any of them. He added though, that the people involved should not have been fired, but reprimanded.
Dennis and Callahan basically both invalidated the feelings of the caller and anyone who could claim to be offended by the matter. They insist that no one would ever intentionally use that phrase referencing someone with an Asian background in a racist manner. That it would just be stupid to do so. Which is true. However, what the caller, and other callers tried to explain, (unsuccessfully to D&C) is that even if it the phrase was not racially motivated, it was, at the very least, being used as a double entendre, which means race entered into it, perhaps without actually realizing that it was as offensive as it was.
Intentional or not, using the phrase in the manner in which it was, to reference Jeremy Lin, is not acceptable.
Once again, I did not hear the Metco incident brought up at all, except indirectly by a caller, who stated that he felt that D&C’s stance on this matter was not surprising at all, he then attempted to bring up Metco, and Callahan loudly shouted over him to obfuscate the caller so that he wasn’t heard at all, and then called it a “cheap shot.”
How in the world was it a “cheap shot” to bring up an incident which was exactly relevant to the discussion they were having at that moment, and involved the very hosts of the show?
When you think about Dennis’ comments after the Metco incident (quoted in the article linked above), you can see why the incident is especially relevant. He called it “the single stupidest thing I’ve ever said in 26 years of broadcasting in Boston.”
“I’ve heard people who know nothing about me evaluate my character, analyze my heart, dissect my brain, and pronounce me a lost and despicable soul,” Dennis wrote. “I understand their anger, and, frankly, I deserve much of what I’m getting.”
So why is it so hard for them to understand why Asian people would be angry over the comments made about Lin? D&C would’ve been better served trying to explain how “the single stupidest thing” can slip out at the worst time, but that the anger generated is still understandable and deserved.
Instead, they did their best to hide from the incident and shout over a caller who attempted to introduce it into the discussion.
This gives them, and the entire station, zero credibility when discussing how the Jeremy Lin incident was handled by ESPN.