Friday, April 2, 2010

What Was Indy Star Thinking?

By now you’ve probably heard of the little photo glitch at the Indy Star, the one that sent murmurs rippling through the Lucas Oil Stadium press room (we in the media love to ripple, by the way) as we braced for Final Four frenzy.

The Star ran a Friday story about the love-hate image of Duke. The story, written by veteran sports writer (and really good guy) Jeff Rabjohns, was fine. The photo of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that accompanied the story was fine. The extra drawings/illustrations/really bad idea that were added to the photo wasn’t so fine. It portrayed Krzyzewski as the devil with drawings of horns, a bulls-eye on his forehead, glasses, a mustache and a goatee.

This might have been hilarious if done in a bar after midnight for the enjoyment of a few under-age-30 guys on their way to having their mothers do their laundry.

For it to appear in the state’s largest newspaper in front of the national media and as part of a major, national event was embarrassing, inappropriate, stupid –- pick your adjective.

Krzyzewski, as you might have guessed, wasn’t impressed.

“I did see that,” he said during Friday’s press conference. “I thought, that can’t be? How can a newspaper do that? I thought I looked better.

“But it was kind of juvenile. Not kind of, was. My seven grandkids didn’t enjoy looking at it. They said, That’s not poppy. You know what, it is what it is. It’s very juvenile.”

Star management agreed. They pulled the distorted photo for the final run. They came to Lucas Oil Stadium and personally apologized to the coach. They ran a story publicizing their apology.

As far as journalism sins go, it was minor. It was more of a school boy prank gone bad, although you’d expect better from such a paper.

Rabjohns has had to deal with the aftermath because many readers, not understanding the way newspapers worked, blamed him for the drawings. He had nothing to do with it. All he did was write a well-reported story that addressed the perception of the Duke program in the wake of its 11 Final Fours and three national championships in the last 24 years. Duke has seen dozens of such stories over the years. Like the New York Yankees, they are a successful team some people love to hate.

Some of those, apparently, work at the Star.

“We have great kids,” Krzyzewski said. “We go to school. We graduate. If we’re going to be despised because we go to school and want to win, that’s your problem. And you have a problem because we’ll go to school and we’ll try to win. If you don’t like it, keep drawing pictures. Try to do them a little better than that, though.”

This reminds me of an incident that occurred when I worked at a newspaper in Evansville many years ago. Somebody, as a joke, wrote a headline that included the F... word. It accidently got sent out to where the paper was being produced. It never got in the paper, but the headline appeared next to the layout. Some people might have gotten a chuckle about it. The managing editor did not. He tried to find out who did. No one admitted to it.

The editor found out which computer it had been written and sent on. Two people used that computer at about the time of the incident. The editor called both guys into his office. He said he knew one of them had written it and asked the guilty person to admit it. No one did. The editor said if no one admitted it, he would fire them both. The guilty person admitted it and was fired.

Thus, a harsh lesson was learned.

Hopefully, no one at The Star gets fired over this. It’s too hard to keep newspaper jobs these days. But hopefully the Star has no more such glitches. It has far too many quality people working there, it is far too good a paper, for something like this to happen again. So the next time the urge to do another lamebrain such stunt strikes, stop, think and do something more mindset appropriate -- like watch Porky's reruns.

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