UPDATED: Miami TV station producer apologizes for mean-spirited Celebration gallery

Screenshot taken from cached version: See more screenshots.

A Local 10 producer, only identified as such by tweet, apologizes:

The slideshow was by no means an attempt to belittle or embarrass anyone. The intent was for it to be a fun and lighthearted look inside my experience at the Star Wars Celebration VI and the people who devote a great deal of their lives to the films we all love. Obviously, I missed the mark.

Well, I said the apology would have to be sincere… Do you think this is enough?

UPDATE: The 501st also got a direct apology.

Original post and background on the situation below the cut.

Yesterday, Star Wars fandom got wind of a Celebration VI gallery posted by WPLG Local 10 News, a Miami ABC affiliate. The gallery’s mean-spirited captions, which mocked the appearances of costumed fans and made ‘mother’s basement’ references, sparked quite a bit of reaction in fandom last night. It’s since been removed, but you can check out a progression of reaction on Pink Sith.

Honestly, I read the gallery early Wednesday, rolled my eyes and moved on. My overall reading was that the gallery creator was trying far too hard to be snarky, perhaps aiming for self-deprecating – he or she admitted to being a fan and having paid for their own pass – and missing by half a planet. I wasn’t particularly offended, because I found the captions were too stereotypically tone-deaf and just plain stupid to take seriously enough to offend. I didn’t post about it, because why condone the mean-spirited click-bait with yet more pageviews?

But I may be the only one with that viewpoint, because they’ve certainly hit a nerve with plenty of fans, with ‘cyber-bullying’ being the rally cry. Among the many raising objections yesterday was Ashley Eckstein 501st CO Kris Kuipers, Bullied author Carrie Goldman and GeekMom’s Dakster Sullivan. A petition asking for a formal apology from the station, has more than a thousand signatures at the moment.

And, amazingly enough, WPLG kept hitting the nerve with a series of puzzling social media fails. When their apology was judged insincere, they deleted it. The gallery itself vanished and returned multiple times last evening, though it finally seems to be gone for good. They’ve deleted comments and posts and banned people on their Facebook page for responses both snarky and sincere, finally going so far as to disable posting on their Facebook page this afternoon. (It has since been re-enabled.)

I’m not sure what’s going on in their newsroom, but it’s been almost 24 hours since this blew up and not a peep since the deleted post. From the perspective of a journalist, the tone of the gallery is indefensible, but given the state of the industry, ‘it brought us lots of clicks’ could very well be a real reason… But I’m not there. I can’t say, and I hesitate to paint an entire newsroom with one brush. But ‘why’ is a very real concern, and one I hope Local 10 addresses it sincerely. It’s going to take a lot to dig themselves out of this hole with an angry fandom, but it would be a start.

People from the Facebook group WPLG Local 10 Owes Star Wars Fans a Formal Public Apology are speaking with the station, but nothing seems to have come of it yet.

While I don’t believe it’s time to stop objecting, I do think that fandom needs to put down the pitchforks and take a deep breath. Garrett Wells has posted some tips from 501st PR that will serve all fans in good stead. Leave the rudeness and snark to the offendees: Now is the time for fandom to put their best foot forward, react in a calm and civil manner and be the better people. There’s been enough name-calling already.

8 thoughts on “UPDATED: Miami TV station producer apologizes for mean-spirited Celebration gallery

  1. Ozzel

    I totally agree—it was far more lame than offensive to me. If any apology was needed, it was for the weak sauce jokes.

  2. MattDoc

    I mostly felt bad for the people in the photos. Were the jokes lame? Sure. Taken out of context were they easily viewed as mean-spirited and possibly bullying? Definitely. The problem I had was that it was on a mainstream TV news website. Had it been on a fan blog or something I also would have rolled my eyes and moved on. But the actual media should know better and they didn’t. That was the issue. It was less about what was said than it was the fact that they thought it was not only ok, but funny, to be that mean across a 44-photo gallery.
    Long story short, everything about it pissed me off. Hopefully the writer and the news station learned a few things with this.

  3. Beth

    As usual, CJ, well written coverage of a SW Fandom related topic. What I do find a bit offensive is that a “journalist” would be allowed to be so demeaning to *anyone* or *any group* of people just having a good time, and not hurting anyone.

  4. Dajuan

    It would be nice if they apologized to a fan group other than the 501st. It seems like the station apologized just to that group ignoring that not all costumers belong to the 501st. Nitpicky maybe, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. I never saw the pictures (Been too busy catching up on real life) but hopefully there weren’t any of my little family on there.

  5. Dunc Post author

    Dajuan: Maybe they have? But I don’t see anything on the RL FB.

    I didn’t see anyone I knew in there – though I did get a picture of the (awesome) ANH Obi-Wan they ‘featured.’

  6. jawajames

    It could be that since the 501st Legion was one of the main groups to mobilize to flood the station with messages critical of the slideshow (and that they were mentioned in one version of the slideshow), and that the station had actually worked with the local 501st in the past to produce Star Wars related segments, that is why the station also directly sent an apology (or something that at least could pretend to be one) to them.

  7. Nancy

    I am pretty sure I spoke to said producer when I called the station Tu aft. He was nasty and dismissive and I don’t say these things lightly.

    That said, the point is made and it’s time to move on. But I do think that journalists, in their professional roles, need to avoid easy cheap snark. The point for me wasn’t the content, but seeing that content on a news station site.

  8. Michael Falkner

    I have my doubts about the sincerity of the apology. It was laced with the same humor that failed the writer in both the slideshow and his Facebook apology.

    That said, the event has passed. Take the spotlight off of this fan and hope that he learned his lesson. We have bigger things to worry about in fandom and life in general.

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