Ghetto, What Ghetto?
The Times-Union in Albany, N.Y. has been in a lather much of this week over what might otherwise be viewed as a throwaway tag line at the end of a story about a rape near a downtown bar.
As a T-U editor's blog explained, a reporter was sent out to supplement the March 31 article b y Brendan Lyons with reaction from bar patrons about the assault. One person, who lives in a town just outside the city remarked: ``That's the thing with Albany, there's always a ghetto nearby.''
A few things: First off, that's not true, although the heavily minority Arbor Hill and South End neighborhoods are in the vicinity of the bar. Second, even if it was true, the woman raped said she was attacked by a white man.
So, we have a case where someone is tacitly blaming minorities for what happened, even though a person of color was apparently not involved. Debatable, then, whether such a quote should have made its way into the story, even though there always is that temptation to end a story with a saucy quote, relevant or not.
Well, the T-U brass came down square against using the ghetto quote, in a blog entry on April 2 penned by managing editor Mary Fran Gleason titled "We Made A Mistake." She took the unusual and highly dubious step of publicly taking those involved out to the woodshed.
The reporter exercised utterly poor judgment by including the quote when she updated Brendan’s original story. Ditto for the night city editor who failed to delete the quote and for the copy editors who also failed to red-line it.
So much for the buck stops here.
Depending on your Albany frame of reference, "ghetto" is not necessarily code for minority. Hundreds of SUNY Albany (my alma mater) students live off campus in what is commonly referred to as the student ghetto. Nothing sinister intended. It's what everybody called it, plain and simple.
True, the context for the article in question was different. Either way, it didn't merit Gleason's response, especially one so public. These are the types of issues you handle in-house. Newspapers have enough problems without letting their dirty laundry hanging in the breeze. For readers offended by the remark, a proper response could have been issued without having to point fingers. Gleason should know better.
Going by her own standards, she is ultimately the one who has to be held accountable. But that would be too much to expect. Maybe the blog entry should have been titled "We Made A Mistake (Well, Not Me)."