By: Joe Strupp
Updated at 10:25 AM ET, Jan. 14
A racial epithet was inadvertently embedded into the background text of an illustration in the upcoming edition of USA Weekend, according to the publication, which said it had alerted 327 of its distributing newspapers of the problem affecting the issue to be published Jan. 16-18.
The Sunday insert says it is taking several steps to alert newspaper publishers and readers in advance and has eliminated the error in as many copies as possible. The word “nigger” is visible in the illustration.
“We are extremely chagrined this found its way into print and believe it is important to let our newspapers and readers know in advance that we are aware of the problem and are apologetic,” said Marcia Bullard, USA Weekend president and CEO. “I regret that we did not see the problem sooner. But when we did, we acted quickly to fix it and let our newspaper partners know. We wanted to provide them with as much time as possible time to decide how to handle the situation.”
The racial slur was discovered while the magazine, with a circulation of 23.7 million, was being printed, according to 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. The magazine is distributed in 598 newspapers.
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 can be published this weekend, 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 elsewhere 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.
“Unfortunately, our editors didn’t check the text in the illustration before it was sent to production,” Bullard’s statement added. “We are embarrassed and regret this happened.” The magazine instituted new editorial procedures to prevent such errors in the future, but no details were released.