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Racist Caricature Left by Prison Escapees Raises Ethical Issues for Media

escapee note
racist caricature left by prison escapees in New York
Two escapees from a New York prison left behind a note with a caricature of a bucktooth Asian wearing a cone-shaped hat and the notation, have a nice day.
It’s unclear why the inmates left such a note, but what’s more important is how three different television networks handled its coverage.
NBC News originally showed the note on its broadcast simply saying “before they left the two convicted killers left a note for officials urging them to have a nice day.” The note was clearly visible in the report. In subsequent reports, NBC correspondent John Yang described the note as “racially offensive” and the note was blurred out.
CBS News in its reports described the note as racist, but chose not to blur it out.
ABC News also showed the note, with its correspondent Gio Benitez reporting “leaving this note behind, ‘have a nice day.'”
Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog with the slogan exposing and combating liberal media bias, described NBC’s decision to eventually blur the image as censorship.
Personally I don’t fault NBC for blurring it. That’s a decision each news outlet should thoroughly discuss and make. Some feel exposing such racism is a good public education tool. Others feel the caricature is so offensive, it has no business being shown on a legitimate news broadcast. Its the same sort of debate often centered around the N word. Today most media outlets would ban the word from their broadcasts, although its likely handled on a case by case basis.
I also don’t fault CBS for choosing not to blur it. As I said earlier, its important to show people that racism is still alive in this country.
The decision, however, made by ABC to show the caricature without characterizing it as offensive, is inexcusable. It allows a racist image to air without going challenged. That does nothing to further the public discourse and is a disservice.
I have reached out to each of the media organizations and if they get back to us, we’ll be sure to report it.


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News


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