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Journalism Educator Critical of Way News Used Racist Caricature in Prison Escape Coverage

escapee note
racist caricature left by prison escapees in New York
A journalism educator who co-authored four editions of a Newsroom Ethics Workbook is questioning the lack of context in the use of a racist caricature of an Asian in news coverage of a New York prison escape.
Convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York Friday, leaving behind a post-it with a drawing of a bucktooth Asian wearing a cone shaped hat and the notation “have a nice day.”
CBS News described the note as racially offensive, and showed it. NBC after first showing the note in full, later described it as “racist” and blurred the image. ABC News also showed the note, but did not characterize the note or comment on its content.
“There may be times when racially charged images or utterances are news and should be shown,” said Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute to AsAmNews. “But in these cases, none of the journalists explained why the image was important.
“What did it mean to show an Asian insult?
“Who were they insulting and why?”
AsAmNews contacted ABC, CBS and NBC, but has not heard back.
Tompkins cautioned the issue needs to be kept in perspective.
“There are FAR more important issues to spend our energy on in this case including the utter breakdown of security,” said Tompkins. “The cartoon distracts us from that with no reason to do so.”
Paul Cheung, president of the Asian American Journalists Association, also did not respond to an AsAmNews inquiry.
However, two members of AAJA’s Media Watch committee confirmed it is looking into the matter. One said the committee will release its statement today.


  1. RE: Journalism educator critical of ways news used racial caricature: Who drew such perfectly round circle and straight lines???

  2. RE: Journalism educator critical of way news news used racial caricature in prison escape coverage: Thank you for pointed it out. You might be the only news outlet mentioning this. It’s not just media. Politician, governor of New York, one of the biggest states with huge Chinese population makes this comment:

    When NBC cited the taunting note the escaped cons left for corrections officials, Cuomo said they “had a little bit of the comedian in them” before adding,“But I plan on giving them back that note.”

  3. RE: Journalism educator critical of way news using racial caricature: I see the image on the news but I have not heard of any explanation why they showed it. They give a close up of the image but talk of other events of the escape. Basically shown on all stations, ABC, CNN, FOX, CBS etc.


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