Words spoken ‘On the Air’ need careCarri Muskat, a reporter for MLB.com, wrote an article on August 7 about a Chicago Cubs home game against the San Diego Padres. I have transcribed a small section of it word for word:
“Size matters: San Diego radio announcer Jerry Coleman, who is in his 31st season as the voice of the Padres, was a Marine pilot in World War II and Korea, and is the only Major League player who is a veteran of two wars. He spent a year in Korea and was amazed when he saw a Cubs rookie, Hee Seop-choi. ‘That’s the biggest Korean I’ve ever seen,’ Coleman said of the 6-foot 5-inch (196-centimeter) first baseman. Coleman’s comments Wednesday, regarding Choi’s size prompted a few posts to the Fan Forum on this Web site. ‘I’m not putting the man down,’ Coleman said Thursday. ‘If they thought I was knocking him, they’re crazy.’”
Apparently, one Cubs fan who heard the broadcast of the game that Ms. Muskat was referring to decided to make it a bigger issue and posted some comments on the Cubs site. Here are a few:
“Jerry Coleman/Ted Lightener on AM 600 in San Diego . . . ‘Wow . . . this Choi guy is 6-5, I guess he is too big to be planting rice over there in the paddies in Korea . . . yeah . . . I hear those guys work all day in those rice paddies.’ WHAT THE ??????? I am finding the Web site to complain about it. . . . I’ll post a link.’”
Notice the difference between the two?
This Cubs fan claims that the broadcast has been erased from the archives. Debates are ongoing on MLB.com and both teams’ fan forums. Whatever the truth may be, Korea’s sports tabloids picked up on the ruckus and had a field day. I read most of their stuff; they all used the Cubs fan’s material as the grist for their stories.
I fired off an e-mail to Albert Cliff, the director of News Radio 600, which broadcast the game, to find out if any statements were released on the matter. He replied that I should talk to the Padres directly since the two broadcasters are employed by them.
In journalism, every writer brings his beliefs, unconscious or not, to his his work. The writer’s background ―his education, religion, nationality, whether he likes dog or cats ― it is all in the choice of words. Sometimes it is crystal clear, at other times muted. Nonetheless it is there, just as a wine says something about the grapes from which it was made.
If you work for the broadcast media it is pretty much the same. The only difference would be that words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. Alas, there is little time for analysis, especially during a live broadcast.
Here’s my take. Jerry Coleman’s remarks are not racist, but they are based on stereotypes. He has paid for them by taking heaps of flak, and by now he must regret what he said. Maybe he will browse through Encyclopedia Britannica and find out that the world has changed since he last took a look. Or maybe he won’t.
One ought to think twice before speaking or writing something for a public audience or any audience.
But I should not have to climb upon the pedestal to deliver this message. We learned this stuff in elementary school, right?
by Brian Lee