Jeremy Lin

In the last three or so weeks, NBA player Jeremy Lin has been the subject of much media fodder. The New York Knicks point guard’s sudden rise to fame has been a hot topic in both sports and mainstream news alike. Unfortunately the frenzy surrounding the Asian-American player has resulted in less than stellar news coverage. Case in point: ESPN’s editor Anthony Federico. Federico filed an online story with the headline “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets” on February 19th. He was fired the next day.

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In response to this headline and other offensive coverage, the Asian American Journalists Association released a media advisory, giving reporters a few pointers on how to steer clear of using racial epithets and other offensive language. The advisory mentioned avoiding references to food, eye shape, driving, and martial arts, however “pun-ny” their usage may be. Additionally, the AAJA encouraged the use of factual references. For example the advisory states: “Jeremy Lin is Asian American, not Asian.” To imply that Lin is not American, the AAJA contends, is not only inaccurate but negates his particular lived experience as an Asian-American.

These pointers, however, should already be in practice. After all, journalists are in the business of presenting facts, not fancy wordplay. The Lin case is perhaps a cogent reminder of the power of language and its misuse in a profession that, at its best, is a pillar of democracy and at its worst, a reflection of societal witlessness. The AAJA’s media advisory seemed to be a necessary refresher and little nudge in the right direction.

Lead image via Getty Images.

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About the author

Boké Saisi was the Visual Editor of the Summer 2012 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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