On and off the court, journalists show “Linsanity” for Jeremy Lin, perhaps more than they should be. Two weeks of continuous news updates and Twitter trends about the New York Knicks point guard have not only led to a variety of creative headlines and a witty Saturday Night Live cold open, but also the firing of an ESPN reporter and a suspension for another. While some brush headlines weaving Lin’s name as mere creativity, the Asian American Journalists Association considers them racially insensitive. But is there really a reason to call a foul here? Have the Lin puns gone too far? Certainly.
Although timeliness and creativity are pillars of successful journalism, ethical standards supersede them in value. In Lin coverage, journalists' blatant disregard for simple ethics, letting inaccuracies and unfair racial profiling go through the presses.
Aside from manipulating Lin’s name into headlines, publications and broadcasts portray him as a new “Asian sensation” and compare his NBA journey to something off a fairytale. They write in awe about his Harvard education, and how he led his team to seven straight victories.
All this, coupled with full-size photos of Lin making jump shots or flexing his muscles is enough to sell headlines, but portrays Lin in a way that violates ethical standards. Dismissing comments about his physicality, journalists should refer to Lin as an Asian American (born in California), the Asian American Journalists Association’s new standards for reporting about the player said.
Merely noting that he is Asian is racial profiling and hyping about how he is from Harvard also alludes to an Asian stereotype. A variety of athletes from all sports have received their college degrees, and where they got them should not be something to obsess over.
Lin is an American citizen who fulfilled the American dream, so portraying his journey as something Cinderella-esque creates exaggerations, another violation of a journalist’s code of ethics. Lastly, while Lin helped his team win seven games in a row, other young players like Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and the Denver Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari come from similar backgrounds as him and are higher up in their respective conferences.
Like basketball, sometimes journalists must be called out for a technical. Players get escorted out for showing unsportsmanlike behavior or breaking game rules, so journalists should be kicked out also for doing the same. The Asian American Journalists Association’s new standards for reporting on Lin remind publications that while they’re all competing for the same thing, the best and fastest coverage, they can’t forget the rules of the game, journalism ethics.
With these new standards, will publications actually follow them? We’ll just have to see if they get “heated” tonight when Lin plays against Lebron James in Miami.
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