WGN-TV takes heat for on-air offensive screw-up


Tribune Media’s WGN-TV was getting hammered on social media for putting up a graphic during Tuesday night’s newscast demeaning to the Jewish community.

WGN-TV was doing a story on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday celebrated in late September. While fill-in anchor Tom Negovan was reading a story on the holiday, a Gold emblem graphic appeared on-screen.

Problem is, the graphic shown was a patch the Nazis made and forced Jewish people to wear during the Holocaust – an offensive symbol to the Jewish community.

Marc Karlinsky, an editor for Chicago Lawyer Magazine, first pointed it out on Twitter:

The goof attracted attention not only from other local press, but TV and Hollywood trade websites (Variety and the Hollywood Reporter), political blogs, and other national media.

After initially posting a statement on WGN’s website apologizing for the error, WGN-TV GM Greg Easterly and News Director Jennifer Lyons offered a more detailed apology:

“Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol. This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.

We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes from happening in the future. Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.”

WGN declined to elaborate further on if any discipline was administered.

This is not the first time erroneous graphics have popped up on local TV – these bloopers happened at local stations and national networks throughout the country, and alarmingly, at a more frequent rate.

Last spring, WLS-TV put up a graphic reporting on a Chicago Blackhawks victory stating “Blacks Win” instead of Blackhawks win. Over the years in Los Angeles, local news stations have mistakenly aired the NBA’s Sacramento Kings logo instead of the Los Angeles Kings’ one when reporting on the team.

But there is no excuse for this error made by WGN.

This comes as staffs at local TV stations are being cut and tasks are being stretched thinner and thinner among personnel as stations are adding more local newscasts. With all the money coming in from political advertising and retransmission fees, you’d think they would spring for a proofreader.

But guess what? Much of the “money” is going to out-of-town owners to pay down debt incurred by buying more and more TV stations, witnessing the recent mergers of Meredith and Media General and Gray and Schurz Communications, and others over the last few years. Wall Street may like it, but the on-air product leaves something to be desired. In other words, expect to see more of these errors in the future.