Some Papers Won’t Carry Offending ‘USA Weekend’

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By: Joe Strupp

The New York Daily News and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale are among the newspapers choosing not to run this Sunday’s USA Weekend after the magazine’s editors revealed that a racial epithet had been inadvertently embedded into the background of an illustration.

“USA Weekend told us they would be reimbursing us for the expense,” said Earl Maucker, Sun-Sentinel (Click for QuikCap) senior vice president and editor, who said his paper was dumping some 400,000 copies of the Gannett & Co. Inc. publication. “We are determining the cost, but they said they would cover it.”

The Daily News (Click for QuikCap) also plans to follow suit, saying in Wednesday’s editons: “The Sunday Daily News carries the magazine, and having learned of the problem late yesterday afternoon, was making every possible effort to remove the offending copies of USA Weekend from its distribution system.”

Those papers are among 327 dailies contracted to carry USA Weekend that received copies of the insert with the word “nigger” mistakenly placed in a background illustration for a freelance story. The magazine is distributed in 598 newspapers.

Editors said USA Weekend had alerted all of the affected newspapers earlier this week of the problem in the issue to be published Jan. 16-18.

At the Sun-Sentinel, production staffers had already inserted 130,000 copies of the weekly publication into sealed plastic bags, which have to be opened and resealed after the copies are removed, Maucker said. “That will take a day or so at least, because it all has to be done by hand,” the editor said. “But we will do it.”

USA Weekend would not release a list of papers that received copies with the offending slur, but Maucker said he believed at least several others had chosen not to run the problematic edition.

The racial slur was discovered while the magazine, with a circulation of 23.7 million, was being printed, according to USA Weekend Editor Marcia Bullard. Printing was halted and the offending words were removed from the illustration in about 43% of the copies. Due to the production schedule, 327 newspapers received issues with the offending language.

A letter was sent to the publisher of each of the affected newspapers on Monday, Bullard said in a statement. It included an explanation of how the error occurred, and apologies from USA Weekend and from the freelance artist who supplied the illustration. The magazine also provided the newspapers with a statement to readers that could be published this weekend with the edition, and an alert to readers if the newspaper chooses not to distribute the publication. In addition, editors said magazine staff would be available this weekend to handle any complaints from readers, editors said.

The illustration, which appears on page 14 of the magazine, uses text from an article previously published in The New York Times Magazine as background. That included an exchange discussing the problems with the racial epithet. The artist said he did not proofread the selected text and was unaware it contained inflammatory language, USA Weekend said.

Maucker praised the magazine for advising newspapers of the problem and offering to pay for extra costs associated with it. “They gave us a real heads up and it was handled in a classy way,” he said. “I give them a lot of credit.”

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