First, check out this apology by Steve, the managing editor of the Telegram in Newfoundland. Steve is purportedly apologizing for a headline on a rape story — “TOO DRUNK TO REMEMBER.”
Let’s discuss! Why is this a terrible apology, compounding the initial offence? [Editor’s Note to Spellcheck: CUT IT OUT. I AM SPELLING “OFFENCE” IN CANADIAN.]
1. Steve does not say what he is apologizing FOR.
2. Steve. “Sorry you were offended” is bad. “Sorry for what we did” — and then naming the thing — is good. FORTUNATELY, I read the letter to the editor from the Executive Director of the St. Johns Status of Women Council — who notes, incidentally, that Newfoundland has one of the highest rates of sexual assault per capita in Canada — and she notes that the accused is a police officer who offered the victim a ride home from the bar in his cruiser, and I read the initial story you ran, which offered some horrifying details. The fact that your takeaway from this was a headline about her drunkenness (not in dispute! also, not a crime!) rather than his rape charge is the thing that warrants an apology. Steve.
3. Steve should actually be apologizing for a tweet as well as a headline, though we’d never know it from his note. Apparently after horrified tweets, calls and emails started to come in from readers, the newspaper tweeted something even worse. That tweet has now been deleted, so perhaps Steve doesn’t feel he has to apologize for it? (It apparently noted that out of every 1000 sexual assaults in Canada, only three lead to a conviction. This is not a good response to “your newspaper just blamed a rape victim for her own rape.”)
4. Steve, your first sentence (or “lede,” as we say in the “biz”) should not be “We write tens of thousands of headlines a year.” How nice for you. The implication is “Look, we are VERY BUSY. We write a SHIT TON of headlines. Tens of thousands of them were SUPERB, which is a FANTASTIC average, so GO AWAY NOW.”
5. “The headline writer was trying to draw attention to important court testimony involving an alleged abuse of power, a case where consent, and the ability to give consent, will likely play a key role in the final outcome.” BLAH BLAH BLAH GINGER. This sentence serves not only to condescend to us about consent (SEE, SAYS STEVE, I DO SO KNOW WHAT IT MEANS) but also to explain that rape culture has nothing whatsoever to do with this newspaper’s editorial staff, who were simply trying to EXPLAIN TO YOU NIMRODS that the COURT will probably decide she was asking for it.
6. Steve says, in effect, “Sorry you misunderstood what JOURNALISM IS, but we shall learn from your slow-witted outrage! In some way, some things will be learned, rest assured — things that we will not explicate upon because we have tens of thousands of headlines to write! We will pay lip service to the fact that our headline was offensive to so many people, without attempting to think hard about why, or to ponder our role in perpetuating harmful attitudes about rape, and everything we are saying right now is just meaningless syllables [BLAH BLAH BLAH GINGER] intended to sculpt a vaguely apology-shaped object!”
7. “Our journalists, to a person, show up each day ready to hold those in power to account, ready to fight for those who have been wronged and ready to make our society better.” Translation: “We are so noble here at the Telegram I CAN BARELY STAND IT. And did you notice how I didn’t say “to a man”? This shows that I am not sexist. I am aware of how language works. I love the ladies. And whether we have big swinging journalist penises or delicate floral vaginas attached to lady folk of fine moral character unlike that drunken hobag we wrote about on Friday, our collective goal is JUSTICE and we have, as I mentioned early, no role whatsoever as a media organ in perpetuating a cultural view that blames women, implicitly or explicitly, for their own rapes.”
8. “Our team works SO HARD and you are so, so mean to them. I hope you’re happy.”
9. “We are awesome listeners, except that we have not listened to the actual content of what you, our readers, collectively, are saying about what we did wrong. Sorry you feel the way you do, again.”
10. “We’ve heard you on this and plan to take action to improve in this area.” This area is an area Steve will not name, in ways he does not spell out, through methods he does not divulge. (Said methods COULD include sensitivity training, a newsroom meeting with a rape crisis counselor or expert on how the media covers rape, a partnership with a rape crisis center or donations of newspapers to battered women’s shelters not contingent upon insuring that only the battered women who WEREN’T asking for it get to read the newspapers — so many options!). Just trust us, Steve urges, on the specifics, OK? We’re keeping them anonymous, on deep background, unattributed — lots of JOURNALIST WORDS you wouldn’t understand. Please stop hectoring us already.
Thank you to reader Michael H. for the pointer. Sigh.