Yellow Insensitivity Part 2
Are modern journalists losing their ability to walk on eggshells when the situation calls for it, especially with recent controversial events? What happened to getting the facts straight?
But in the person’s defense, it was technically an honest mistake. A lot of Asian countries do use the surnames first, and not many people realize that Korean names often have “parts” to them. Regardless, poor judgment is poor judgment no matter how you want to look at it.
Back in journalism school, I was taught to be wary of headlines. Because headlines are one of the first things people look at before they read an article, having an appropriate one is of course very important.
Some general headline rules:
- The headline is ACCURATE.
- The headline tells you what the article is about.
- The headline has proper spelling and punctuation (well, duh).
- Every letter and space does make a difference. Generally, headlines should be punchy yet still captivating for what it is (e.g. if you can make a puppy parade story enticing to read, then you have some real talent).
- More important stories entail bigger headlines (e.g. if Buddha reincarnated and revealed himself), whereas less important stories get the smaller headlines.
- Headlines should not be taken the wrong way at face value. You want to avoid words/writing things in such a matter that could be taken out of context, which brings us back to this blog post’s main point about the “Gook double earns victory.”
First off, we as Americans have a lot of “bad” words that you have to be careful with throwing around willy-nilly, especially if you are ESPN.com. An athlete’s name may be their actual name, but you still have to put on the kid gloves when using them in a headline.
Because you see, athletes fall in a special exception category when it comes to headlines. Normally, you would probably avoid using a person’s name in a headline unless they are “important” in some way (e.g. President Barack Obama would be someone you would definitely use in a headline). You often would just use words that describe any other person (e.g. firefighter). Anyway, it is common in sports to use a given athlete’s name for a headline, especially if the athlete did something significant for a game or match. A simple example – “Smith boots game-winning field goal.”
In this case, the Asian athlete in question played a huge role to help South Korea win the soccer match. Naturally, the headline writer just defaulted to grabbing the player’s name, though selecting “Gook” in this case was incredibly stupid.
Again, face value. Always about the face value.
Though the name slip-up is quite relevant and would rationalize this “accident” even happening, the headline writer should have known better. To use “Gook” like this in the context of an Asian player is wrong. The derogatory aspects in a “professional” headline will definitely be perceived in a bad light.
It goes back to why I believe that people generally have less tact toward Asians in general. For instance, if a black athlete’s last name were the “N word” for some reason, people would automatically avoid using the name in a headline like the world depended on it.
The headline writer could have opted for a million different ways to substitute “Gook” from the headline, such as using the player’s position instead or talking about South Korea’s collective victory. There is more than one correct, proper way to write a headline without it being offensive.
Then again, there is the matter of whether this headline writer in question will face punishment like the “Chink in the Armor” writer being fired. It’s a whole different can of worms if this person is sanctioned or not.
Ugh, so much controversy. So much insensitivity.