BY CLIFF WEISS / PUBLISHER //
As some of you may know, on June 28, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) ran its daily crossword puzzle, which it purchases from Tribune Media Services (Tribune). Sadly, instead of being entertaining, the puzzle contained an anti-Semitic clue/answer: The clue for 32-down was: “Shylock, e.g.,” and the answer was “Jew.”
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Now, if the answer must be “Jew,” there are many better examples to be used as a clue. Shylock was not even a real Jew!
Shylock was a fictional character created by Shakespeare and based upon the most outrageous negative, anti-Semitic stereotypes of that era. Why not use Moses, Einstein, Spielberg or Jesus (if you want to be tricky) as the example? To choose one of the most despicable Jewish characters in literary history as the example is highly offensive.
Although I never intended to blow this out of proportion, on the morning of July 2 I thought that I should at least call the publisher of the AJC, Amy Glennon, to get the paper’s side of the story. At first, I was told the publisher was in a meeting, and her assistant informed me that an apology was already printed on Page 2 of the July 2 edition. Thus, I immediately went out and purchased the AJC to find the apology.
What I saw on Page 2 was a small box (reprinted here) with the title “A note to our readers” that the AJC claims is their “apology.” As you can see, it is very clear that “Tribune Media Services, which provides the puzzle, apologizes.” In contrast, it is equally clear that the AJC did not actually apologize. In fact, the AJC merely tried to shift the entire blame to Tribune.
In fact, the first sentence of the non-apology makes it look like the puzzle ran in the L.A. Times on June 28 – not in the AJC. Further, the AJC does not even indicate what the clue/answer specifically were or why an apology was in order in “A note to our readers.”
Not pleased with the apology hoax, I started to become really concerned about this issue. I had already received calls from our AJT readers complaining about the AJC’s puzzle, so I though that I would call Bill Nigut, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League for the Southeast, who gave me some more background and provided some additional correspondence.
Apparently, after the puzzle was published, the ADL sent a letter voicing its concerns to Tribune. Tribune quickly issued a press release and letter to the ADL, apologizing for the incident, and on June 30, many newspapers ran a press release apologizing for the puzzle.
Interestingly, the AJC did not run such an apology on that day – the only attempt was on July 2, and it was deficient.
Nigut also stated for the record that “the AJC owes a genuine apology to our community, and I am disappointed by them.” He raised the great point that “this was a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and explain why [the character of] Shylock is so offensive.”
We both agree that the AJC had an excellent opportunity to educate people on this matter and open a dialogue in the community but instead chose to shift the blame in hopes of avoiding the issue.
At that point, I called Glennon back, but was referred to Drue Miller, the AJC’s Director of Marketing and Media Relations (i.e., “spin doctor”). I asked Miller to read “A note to our readers” with me, then I asked her why there was such a strong distinction between the Tribune’s position and the AJC’s.
Specifically, why was it published that “Tribune Media Services, which provides the puzzle, apologizes,” yet nowhere does it state that the AJC apologizes. Miller responded:
“I don’t know.”
I asked why there was no formal apology, and again Miller indicated that she could not answer that question, but would find out from someone and call me back.
Later, I finally received a call from the AJC publisher Glennon. I asked her the same simple question: Why did Tribune clearly apologize, but not the AJC?
She too could not answer that question. Instead, she said something even more absurd, claiming that “the purpose of ‘A note to our readers’ on Page 2 is to inform the readers about what happened.”
In my opinion, this was a completely disingenuous answer when you consider that the “note” on Page 2 did not admit that the puzzle was in the AJC; did not indicate what the words were; did not explain why it was offensive; and did not explain who was offended! How can that be informative?
I next asked Glennon who wrote the note, to which she answered, “Not sure who wrote it, it went through several people.”
Not happy with Glennon’s responses, I pushed ahead and asked why the AJC simply shifted all of the blame to Tribune, maintaining that everything is fine because the Tribune already gave a true, formal apology, unlike the AJC. To bring this point home:
Consider the husband who stays out late with friends, has a little too much to drink and forgets to tell his wife that he will be going out after work. When the husband comes home, the wife is furious and waiting at the door. The husband proudly announces, “It was my friends’ idea to go out drinking, and they all apologize.”
We know that the wife would never accept such an apology from other people as being a true sign of regret and remorse form the husband, and the same holds true here – the AJC needs to accept their own responsibility and apologize. Instead of trying to shift blame, the AJC should show some remorse; at this point, they should be more ashamed of the way they tried to blame others than for the original offense. And what’s more, the AJC missed a wonderful opportunity to educate people about this topic.
I certainly understand that everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that we should learn from those mistakes. The AJC should have used this situation to open a dialogue so that we can all learn from what happened.
After all, isn’t educating the ignorant much more important than the formalized apology anyway? What do you think?
Let us know your thoughts!