June 8, 2010

Chicago Tribune's gaffe on Pronger compounded in digital time

In this digital age of instant everything -- with live news and video at our fingertips -- newspapers still have the luxury of time, time to get things right.

That isn’t always the case, though, and the Chicago Tribune’s special pullout poster Tuesday is living proof of that.

With the Stanley Cup finals being played between Chicago and Philadelphia, the Tribune printed a poster of Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger. In a dress. With a headline that says Pronger “looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.” Seriously.

The poster is demeaning to women. There is no gray area here. This wasn’t a case of poorly chosen words tumbling from the mouth of a corporate executive -- like BP’s CEO and his now infamous “I'd like my life back” quote -- or a bad headline that lived briefly on the Internet.

This was a conscious decision, made by a group of people who had the luxury of time to think about the image and what it conveyed. It went through editors. It went through proofs. It went to press.

It was a poorly conceived idea, one without even the benefit of cleverness or originality.  From a pure business standpoint, it’s an affront to half of the Tribune’s readership. And because the newspaper industry is not exactly booming these days, insulting customers is hardly a wise move.

What’s worse is the lack of response from the Tribune. Anywhere. Despite a steady stream of instant criticism -- it is being blasted on Twitter and USA Today’s Christine Brennan chimed in with a quick column on the topic -- the Tribune has gone silent. It hadn’t updated its Twitter feed in 15 hours, or its Facebook page in five hours. Nor had it responded publicly in any other fashion.

The Tribune screwed up in newspaper time, but it needed to learn how to respond in digital time. Because the only way to keep the damage from piling up quickly is for its executives to figure out how to tweet "We're sorry" and sound like they mean it. Now they're compounding their first mistake with that one.

Why is sexism alive and well at Chicago Tribune? {USA Today}
Chicago Tribune would like you to meet ‘Chrissy Pronger’ {Yahoo Sports}
Today’s poster: Flyers’ Chris Pronger (really) {Chicago Tribune}

No comments:

Post a Comment