I interviewed BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith on the standards that news organizations apply to expressions of bigotry by their employees.
The examples of CNN’s Roland Martin’s insensitivity to gays, the ESPN headline writer who unwittingly upset the fans of Jeremy Lin specifically and Chinese generally, and of the intentionally tasteless vulgarity of the New York Times’ buffoonish Charles Blow towards Mormans have all occurred in a relatively short space of time and have produced three different results –a suspension, a firing and a shrug of the shoulders.
Smith is an editor-in-chief now, and will have to puzzle out his own standards. Judging from our conversation, he is early in the process, but it would be better for everyone if standards were understood before offenses against them occurred, and that one of those standards was that religious bigotry was understood to be every bit the evil of racial bigotry, and that expressions of either would lead to the same penalties, whatever those might be.
If someone can articulate a rule that makes sense of the three cases and the three different results, please send it along to me via firstname.lastname@example.org.