We all know that news programs are not perfect in nature, whether it be on a local level or a national level. But there are times when things go beyond simple discomfort and get full-on awful, even if it’s only accidental. Such was the case for WGN when a highly insulting image was used during a report on Yom Kippur on Tuesday night, and the network has since issued a formal apology.
As seen in the screenshot above, WGN News at Nine was covering Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year in Judaism, and they used a graphic of the Jewish star with “Jude” written in it. To those unaware, this was the symbol that Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II as a way of identifying them and isolating them from the rest of the population. As you can imagine, the viewing audience did not take this too well, and let WGN have it via social media.
To their credit, the network took full responsibility and apologized to certain messages, eventually putting out a widespread apology earlier today. Here was that apology, which came from General Manager Greg Easterly and News Director Jennifer Lyons.
Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Attonement. 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.
That’s a pretty solid apology for such a terrible mistake. Given how scaled-back newscasts have gotten in recent years, with fewer employees and more automated technology, it’s entirely possible that WGN News at Nine only has one or two people handling stock imagery, without anyone serving as a middleman to spot-check everything. Alternatively, it’s possible that there were several people in charge of handling the imagery, and it happened that no one was aware of what this symbol represented, only seeing it as the Star of David. However it happened, it was an act of ignorance and presumably not hatred.
The Jewish population has been forced to wear identifying badges by different cultures for many centuries now, but this is probably the only time that one of those symbols made its way to TV in the complete opposite of the way it was intended. We can only hope that nothing like it happens again.