SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Mercury News of San Jose, California, apologized Friday for an insensitive headline about U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel.
The 20-year-old Stanford University student became the first black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event when she tied for first with Penny Oleksiak of Canada in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night.
After the race, the San Francisco Bay Area newspaper omitted Manuel’s name in a headline reading “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.”
The Mercury News, which covered Manuel’s collegiate career at nearby Stanford, tweeted an apology, saying the headline was insensitive.
It was posted on the newspaper’s website about 9:45 p.m. and quickly removed and replaced with one carrying Manuel’s name with Phelps. The headline was not printed in the newspaper.
Readers took to social media sites almost as soon as the offensive headline was posted to complain about the gaffe.
“This is a terrible headline,” Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakwami posted on Twitter while the headline was still live. “It’s my paper. I might get in trouble for saying it, but it’s a terrible headline.”
Executive Editor Neil Chase said no one will be disciplined because it appears there were no bad intentions in writing the headline.
Instead, Chase said there will be a “tough conversation” to determine exactly how the headline came to be written and published without any staffer raising concern. He said a “couple different people saw it” before it was posted.
Chase said The Mercury News, like many media companies, is working with smaller staffs than in the past in an era of increased demand during a 24-hour news cycle.
“That’s no excuse,” he said. “We made a mistake.”
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