It’s dicey issue time.
As I predicted, Don Imus found a radio job (I thought satellite but terrestrial is fine) following his public idiocy in the fall of 2007. Terrestrial radio needs to make money any way it can while not appearing to be way over the line.
When Imus went over the line he worked for CBS Radio and MSNBC, they had to fire him. Imus was not working for ABC Radio so the shadow of his remarks, in theory, wouldn’t taint this new network. While they had a successful morning team (Curtis and Kuby) on the company flagship station (WABC-AM), they felt they could make even more money with Imus. Imus promised to behave. We’ll see and until such time ABC is going sell the hell out of Imus. Terrestrial radio needs to make money any way it can.
The Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman was the first woman to serve as primary anchor of a network’s season long coverage. Last season was her first. Early in her sophomore outing, Tilghman made a very sophomoric mistake. She and her on-air partner Nick Faldo were discussing young players who could challenge Wood’s toward the end of Friday’s broadcast at Kapalua when Faldo suggested that “to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up for a while.”
“Lynch him in a back alley,” Tilghman replied.
Given the repulsive history of lynchings of blacks in America, this was an incredibly poor choice of words. She said a dumb thing. By the end of the broadcast, she realized what she had said about Woods and its implications and apologized. Tilghman also personally and directly apologize to Tiger.
Woods, who was directly referenced by the comment, did not take offense. He seems to have a friendly relationship with Tilghman, seems to know her as a person, not just a broadcaster and either dismissed the issue, accepted the apology or both.
The Golf Channel profusely apologized for the remark, (one assumes because it was stupid and because the network has a 15 year contract with the PGA Tour that it doesn’t want to lose) suspending Tilghman for two weeks as a result.
Kelly Tilghman made a mistake which I’m guessing upset her more because of her friendship with Tiger Woods rather than because it might cost her a job (although I’m guessing she really likes the job as well). I’m not sure what the HR policies are at the Golf Channel so a suspension may have been mandatory; whatever the caseâ€¦time served and lets move on.
Sadly it’s not that simple as stupidity had to rear its ugly head in two forms.
First in the form of the comments of Rev. Al Sharpton who called for Tilghman’s bosses to fire her.
Second in the form of the cover of Golfweek magazine, approved by its editor Dave Seanor, depicting a rope in the form of a noose on the cover with the headline: “Caught in a Noose: Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can’t wriggle free,” pointing readers to a special report by the weekly magazine. Seanor has been fired for the cover.
First, my thoughts on the Sharpton comments: No. Firing Tilghman for making a stupid remark, no matter the historically tragic the implications that could be derived would be dumb. The lynching of blacks in America was another awful chapter in American history but the intent of the remark was outside the scope of that history. Fortunately there are others, including those in the African American Community, who share this opinion.
Broadcasters have an immense responsibility to be thoughtful about their words and actions on the air. She made a mistake by what she said, no question, yet there is not a professional broadcaster of any race or international origin (as we all are) who has done or said something stupid and/or thoughtless while performing live. We all have to one degree or another. Did we regret our thoughtlessness? Eternally.
Further, Tilghman hadn’t the reputation for on-air insensitivity that Imus and other broadcasters do, in fact, quite the opposite. When you’ve got that self-perpetuated “bad seed” reputation AND you say something really stupid on the air, grab your parachute and jump before they push you because either way you’re getting off the plane in mid-flight. That’s not Tilghman’s reputation so she’ll return a wiser but embarrassed broadcaster. Many have come back from far worse to enjoy a stellar career.
However, when you’re making an editorial decision for a print publication, like Golfweek, when you have more time to consider your options and solicit opinions, then, yes, you need to pack a parachute as well. There were so many other creative ways to graphically represent the Tilghman story in print while still providing an eye catching cover for readers that I really don’t disagree with Seanor’s dismissal. When I consider the type of magazine it is, the audience it serves, its editorial focus and the point of this cover worthy story, the cover was meant to inflame and titillate in my opinion and was unnecessary. Seanor will come back too as the publication under his watch was a good one. One hopes upon his return, he’ll be just as responsible as Tilghman will be.
Now I’m off to continue to make some more of my famous mistakes.