Seth MacFarlane delivered the kind of Oscars humor you’d expect from him. I laughed at some of his jokes and heard more than a few that made me cringe — misogynistic is almost kind — but I’m not a fan and I’m not in his target audience. If it had been Saturday Night Live, I may have changed the channel. I hung in because it was the Academy Awards, probably proving the point to ABC and the Academy that there is an audience that will come no matter what in addition to the audience they’re trying to pull in with a host like the creator of Family Guy and Ted. I did mention one joke on Twitter that fell particularly flat for me — and predictably was accused of not getting that it was a joke.
Meanwhile, the folks at The Onion were doing what they do 24/7, churning out topical humor that taps into the zeitgeist of the moment with varying degrees if taste or lack thereof. Often that humor is simple parody that draws a quick laugh; sometimes it’s knife-sharp edgy. Sunday night during the Oscars, The Onion went off a cliff with the last tweet in the image below, using a coarse epithet that someone apparently thought would-be funny when paired aimed at nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis They quickly found out that even some of their biggest fans have more boundaries than they do. Following an immediate uproar, the tweet was deleted nearly an hour later.
If the only people who cared were those who already don’t like The Onion, well, consider the source. But when people who like your brand feel betrayed, you have a different problem. They think they know what to expect, even if sometimes it’s not funny or the taste level of something that makes them giggle is below 1/8 of a tank. They don’t want to think they have anything in common with someone who would toss the C word at a child as a joke.
Deleting it doesn’t make that go away.
As for the notion that pushing back at humor equates to being humorless,
You're foolish if you think people who are mad at the onion don't get what they do.We get it.They still went too far. Everything has a limit—
me like (@melike_i) February 25, 2013
Update: The Onion deleted the tweet Sunday night. Midday Monday CEO Steve Hannah apologized to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences via its Facebook page. (The apology is now on theonion.com too.) Hannah said new and tighter Twitter procedures are in place and promised disciplinary action.
It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.
No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.
The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.
In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.
Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.
Hannah strikes the right notes, especially for a publication not known for apologies or retractions.
No one who enjoys The Onion wants its sense of satire to be degraded. Many who enjoy it think The Onion can avoid that without being degrading.
Not everyone thinks an apology was warranted or that the tweet should have even been deleted.
Some of the responses are worse than the original tweet. Not posting them here but you scan Facebook or search for the C word and onion on twitter.
One more thought for now: I didn’t see the initial tweet as racist but as Oscar satire gone awry. Here’s the “commentary” “by” Best Actor winning Daniel Day-Lewis that went up minutes later:
Commentary By Daniel Day-Lewis | While I’m Glad I Won, I Personally Believe Abraham Lincoln Deserved To Die onion.com/124YZut
— The Onion (@TheOnion) February 25, 2013
I still don’t think it was racist but I can’t ignore the number of people who quickly saw it as racist
or as an example of continued racism by The Onion. If someone at The Onion thinks it’s ok to use the word about a woman of any age or about a child, I don’t think race would have held them back. I’m not going to dismiss their response, though. It’s from their perspective, their experience and it’s not up to me to say it doesn’t hurt.
A horrific crash at Daytona Saturday afternoon sent more than a dozen fans to the hospital. The drivers involved walked away — almost unbelievably so in the case of rookie Kyle Larson, who emerged from less than half of his car after the rest went into the fence and the grandstand.
It also sent a lot of fans to social media with video and stills of the crash and its aftermath; many of them taken as eyewitnesses from the grandstands where the wreckage landed. Tyler Andersen, who describes himself on Twitter as a sophomore at Providence, posted a video that captured the whole sequence, including a tire that spun into nearby seats injuring someone near him and efforts to get assistance. He asked for prayers for the injured man before alerting ESPN to the video.
— Tyler(@TAndersen904) February 23, 2013
Andersen’s video quickly ricocheted, recommended to me by disparate parts of my timeline. I watched it once and when I went back to check something minutes later, it was gone.
I don’t know if this was the automated YouTube copyright police at work or if it was taken down because NASCAR or a media rightsholder complained. If it was the former, NASCAR has a sophisticated enough social media operation to know that the video was yanked and should be back up. If it was the latter, NASCAR has a sophisticated enough social media operation to know that rights or no rights, the video wasn’t going away and they might as well avoid the criticism of it.
.@nascar has nearly 1 million Twitter fans. more than 3 million likes on Facebook. That genie isn’t going back in the bottle.(Update: It was overt.See NASCAR’s explanation below.)
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) February 23, 2013
Instead, news video taken by someone who narrowly missed being injured) was blocked — and as of this writing is still blocked. Meanwhile, Deadspin (of course, it was Deadspin), smartly grabbed a copy of the video and popped it right up.
Yes, NASCAR owns the copyright, something spelled out on tickets to races just as it is for many other events.
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 23, 2013
(There are legal concerns here; I expect all of the video, stills and other records could be evidence in any case emerging from the crash.) And I can understand setting up rules applying it to live streaming or layering in length limits.
I agree with Anthony De Rosa:
Anyway, rights to media at NASCAR far less important issue than status of fans injured
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) February 23, 2013
And I’m not encouraging any fan to take video or pictures at personal risk or to do it instead of helping those around them if that is possible.
But this dynamic isn’t going away. For instance, at least one other video of this crash is up now (via SBNation)
Taking high-quality images and instantly sharing them is only getting easier. If NASCAR wants the boost from social media, as it clearly does given its interaction on Twitter, Facebook and other places, it should go all in.
— slfisher (@slfisher) February 23, 2013
As for the video of today’s crash, my initial response after the takedown, shared or favorited by dozens, stands:
.@nascar Strongly urge you to unblock fan video of Daytona crash. If you want the boost from social media, need to take it all.
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) February 23, 2013
Update: As I was posting this, The Verge published a statement from NASCAR that it took down the video out of respect for those injured.
Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident.
Meanwhile, Andersen, whose Twitter feed reflects being overwhelmed by the emotions of the afternoon,
Can fully understand why NASCAR took the video down. Meant no disrespect to any involved. Once again, keep all affected in your prayers.
— Tyler(@TAndersen904) February 24, 2013
Update 2: And YouTube saves NASCAR from having to reverse its decision by reinstating the video, telling the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple:
Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos.
Will NASCAR try the copyright block again using the language on the ticket that claims it owns all rights? I hope not. Will other copyright owners get the message from YouTube that takedowns aren’t an accepted method of trying to control the flow of information? I doubt it.
I also doubt NASCAR is at risk if losing its YouTube account but the Google video portal lists that as a possible consequence of misusing the power of DCMA:
If you choose to request removal of content by submitting an infringement notification, please remember that you are initiating a legal process. Do not make false claims. Misuse of this process may result in the suspension of your account or other legal consequences.
– Ann Marie Lipinski, Nieman Foundation curator, drawing a connection between the editor Eugene Patterson and hacker (in the best sense of the word) and activist Aaron Swartz, who died a day apart. You can — and should — read Ann Marie’s entire piece here.
I was thinking of Ralph McGill, a personal hero of mine, as I read Ann Marie’s thoughts, in part, because it is reflexive to think of him whenever I think of Gene Patterson or certain other graduates of the McGill school. Then I ran into his name in the section quoted above and was reminded of how far his legacy has spread, how many people still believe that journalism can and must be used to challenge the worst in our world, to change the status quo. Even those who don’t recognize the name (my mother would call that a shonda) have learned from those who do like Ann Marie.
Add to that another reminder: in today’s world, the power of one-to-many no longer belongs only to the media or the government. That doesn’t change the responsibilities of journalists; it spreads the responsibility of change.
No, it cannot. Sports reveal character, but we can’t truly know if whatever drove an athlete to greatness was nobility or obsession or a hidden reservoir of rage. We can’t truly know what fame does to somebody. We can’t know a person, not really, no matter how many TV interviews or magazine features or newspaper columns they are in.
Sports, and sportswriting, offers snapshots, glimpses, hints, or façades. Some of it is real, but none of it is ever comprehensive. We think we know, and we don’t, and we have to be reminded of this over and over again, because the lights are bright, and sports can be beautiful, and it causes us to forget, and believe again. Because we want it to be true.”
In the midst of Manti Te’o-Lance Armstrong mania Friday night, a retweet from National Post sports columnist Bruce Arthur cut through the clutter:
— Tabatha Southey (@TabathaSouthey) January 19, 2013
The link led to a journalism trainwreck written by Toronto Star columnist Rose DiManno:
My first reaction, after doublechecking to make sure I read it right,
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) January 19, 2013
drew instant dismay:
— Nately (@NateErickson) January 19, 2013
Usually I move on but in the morning the lede was still in my head, like a bad hangover I didn’t enjoy getting. It was a bad lede, Bulwer-Lytton bad in its style but nothing to laugh at. It was especially bad for the delicate subject of a column about how a patient was sodomized on the operating table — a subject shocking enough without that intro. The column had other problems but they paled next to that lede. (I didn’t look at anything else Rosie DiManno wrote that day or her archives.) And it was the Toronto Star, a paper I took great pride in writing for as a hockey stringer but seemed to have no editors working that day. I couldn’t understand how it got published or, if it was the columnist pushing the button, how it stayed published.
I made another run at it:
More dismay via Twitter
I didn’t reach out to the Star but after the considerable backlash from a lot of directions, including complaints to the paper, Public Editor Kathy English weighed in. She put it a lot more carefully but essentially it boils down to
“Rosie is a top columnist, we let Rosie be Rosie but if someone had noticed this before publication Friday we might have encouraged her to be slightly less Rosie.”
Those are my words. Here are some of hers:
“Taste” is always a subjective matter and questions of taste in columns and other content are often flagged to the managing editor by columnists themselves or other editors. That did not happen in this case. Had that occurred, I expect the managing editor would have urged DiManno to revise the opening to the column, which otherwise accurately reflects the direct testimony of the victim.
So what should the Star have done?
@sdkstl I’m curious to know: what would you do differently in this case – suspend her?
— Simon Houpt (@simonhoupt) January 22, 2013
You don’t suspend a columnist for bad writing that gets published — that’s in the range of responses to plagiarism, bad reporting or bad behavior. If the columnist has the right to publish directly, I would change that — possibly with procedures in place to avoid being stonewalled by the editing process for something breaking.
This was an editorial breakdown. I would find out how it happened and look to the editor who approved it and/or the editor who set up a process that allowed it to happen. I would see if it’s part of a bad pattern and if more than the one column needs addressing. I would include copy editing, line editing and top editing in that look. If I caught the lede live — within hours of publication — I would have it updated and noted. At this point, I would add an editor’s note mentioning the concerns and linking to the public editor’s post. (The post link is there now as a related link but nothing is appended.)
Columnists need to have a voice and the best editors know how not to mess with that. They also know how to help the columnist use that voice and when to say enough is enough.
The New York Post made a big mistake Sunday by publishing a Facebook chat “interview” with an imposter masquerading as the brother of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. Mediaite made it worse, first hyping the report with zero skepticism, then keeping its story hyping the original NYP report up hours after the tabloid’s update with a family spokesman denying Ryan Lanza gave the interview or set up a tribute page for his brother and slain mother on Facebook.
When the site finally updated, it left a bad headline in place — only striking through Lanza’s name and adding a note at the top repeating the NYP statement. Someone apparently deleted an earlier tweet touting the initial Mediaite version — a tweet I did in reply is left but the original no longer shows up. Unlike the NYP, Mediaite didn’t tweet an update.
Mediaite wasn’t alone in running with a spurious story that never should have been published. Gawker replaced its post with a brief update but left up the comments about it — including those chiding it for believing the NYP at all. Yahoo News blew it by posting the story, then putting the “update” at the bottom. Gothamist did a write through with the update but the url still heralds the mistake of playing follow the leader with the Post. Huffington Post is the only one I’ve seen so far to run an editor’s note explaining the situation. No apology.
For all of its faults, starting with ignoring a field of red Facebook flags, when the Post was notified, the headline was changed and the update was tweeted. It would have been even better to run a formal correction and/or admission of error. Instead, the tabloid left a lot of the details for the Washington Post to fill in.
As for the lemmings that followed the NYP thinking that attribition to another media outlet offers some kind of pass or absolution in case a story is wrong, it doesn’t.
In news suppressed by major U.S. news outlets until now, freelance reporter Jill Carroll has been kidnapped while on assignment in Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor. Her Iraqi interpreter, one of many who risk their lives as much as any journalist, was killed in the Saturday morning kidnapping. According to Editor & Publisher, the news was withheld initially at the Monitor’s request and released after it appeared in dozens of news outlets outside the U.S. I’ll deal with the futility of withholding news in the Internet Age another time. News stories: CSM | E&P. (Links via Romenesko.)
Now I join the Monitor and others in urging the release of this journalist and the protection of her colleagues and the people who make their work possible. Without them we outside Iraq have no hope of ever understanding what is going on inside a war zone that is also a home to millions. My thoughts and prayers are with Jill and those who know and love her.
From the Monitor’s statement:
"Jill’s ability to help others understand the issues
facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking
information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure
her release." – Richard Bergenheim, Editor
It would be nice if someone removed the "give a gift subscription" ad from the bottom of the statement. I don’t think anyone is trying to benefit; it just doesn’t look good.
(Disclosure: I’ve freelanced for CSM since 2004 under far less dangerous circumstances.)
One of those nights when the name of this blog is reflected in the news. A few hours ago, I came back to my Las Vegas hotel room to drop off some things and caught the welcome news on CNN that 12 miners missing after a West Virginia mine explosion had survived. Back from dinner and working away with CNN in the background, I was half-listening to Anderson Cooper live in West Virginia — and noting that CNN was truly live, not Memorex — when a woman and children rushed up the camera blurting out that it had all been a mistake.One man survived; the rest were confirmed dead.
It was a startling moment in so many ways. With no way of confirming at that moment what he — and we — were being told, the story continued nearly unchecked. In a way, it was a replay of the way the news of survival was delivered hours earlier — a variation of the telegraph game run horribly amuck. This time, the news was right — one man survived and had been rushed to the hospital; the rest, in a horrible reversal, would not be coming home.
As I type, angry family members are being interviewed by Miles O’Brien. For now, the anger is aimed at the company, particularly the top exec. Earlier, during a press conference witjh Gov. Joe Manchini, reporters tried to figure out how much blame he should bear — some used a comment he made as a confirmation of the survival. But it wasn’t the governor who reported the survival story.
At some point, the media covering this story needs to look inward and consider the contribution journalists made to the spread of inaccurate reports. We all make mistakes (I made one Tueaday that’s still driving me crazy); most of us, if not all, likely have repeated inaccurate information because it came from a reliable source. But we can — and should — take responsibility for what we report and how we report it.
Addendum: I’m not suggesting this coverage was based
on reliable sources; the sourcing and decision-making is unclear at
this point. The AP’s reporting certainly contributed to some of the coverage but that doesn’t explain why so many journalists at what had become a major media event went with what appears to be hearsay instead of waiting for official confirmation. The live coverage of the euphoric scene had its own power. What would I or any of you have done in their place? The temptation to believe in miracles can’t be underestimated. Neither can group-think. I hope I would have been skeptical.
Memo to CNN and any other news outlet or journalist tempted to repeat "details" without checking:
A reference this morning to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’ volunteer work for a group called Exodus Ministries left some people — including journalists — leaping to conclusions and assumptions. A few minutes ago, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips said she heard on NPR and from "a number of people" that Miers was involved with the Exodus Ministries that says gay people can go straight with the help of Jesus. Even when her guest, constitutional law expert David Oblon, suggested she was talking about the wrong group — that Miers volunteered for a similarly named group in Dallas helping ex-convicts — she insisted on talking about how this might affect rulings on gay issues and Oblon actually started to talk about how "if it’s true that she was supporting the ex-gays, well, that tells you a little bit about her."
Actually, the whole thing tells me a lot more about the people making these statements. If you don’t know, don’t speculate. Find the answer. Don’t assume something you hear is gospel. Check it out. In this case, while they were babbling, I managed to find the right web site for Orlando-based Exodus International, where a press release clearly states:
"Harriet Miers, nominee
for the U.S. Supreme Court, served on the board of directors of Exodus Ministry in East Dallas, an organization that assists ex-offenders in finding jobs and places to live. The organization is in not
related to Exodus International, the world’s largest educational and informational outreach dealing with homosexuality." (The emphasis is theirs, not mine.)
This is not rocket science. I’ve been part of covering the nomination of a justice — Clarence Thomas worked in Missouri and had strong ties here, which made me part of the Time team looking into his background. If we’d gone around mentioning every piece of information we heard or came across without checking it a lot of misinformation would have been in the public record.
The ability to send words around the globe instantly via digits or satellite doesn’t mean you have to cut corners. If anything, it means you should be even more careful.
Coda: Find out more about the Exodus Ministries where Miers did volunteer.