Deadline Offers Apology for “Ethnic Castings” Post

Deadline was raked across the coals for its “ethnic castings” post written by Nellie Andreeva. The post made everyone upset (with “upset” being an understated description of the actual anger that the post caused). You can see what I wrote about the post here.

So, clearly, with so much anger directed at this post and Andreeva herself, you could expect Deadline to come out with an apology. Here’s what co-editor-in-chief Mike Fleming, Jr. wrote.

…Deadline ran an article last week that generated controversy and hurt feelings. An unfortunate headline-Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings-About Time or two much of a Good Thing?-created a context from which no article could ever recover. My co-editor-in-chief Nellie Andreeva’s goal was to convey that there was such an uptick of TV pilot casting of poeple of color that it pinched white actors who’ve historically gotten most of the jobs, and to question if this could last if it was being treated as a fad. All this was undermined by that headline (which we changed after the fact) and a repetition of the word “ethnic” that came off cold and insensitive.

…That story was up all night. It was 12 hours before I awoke to numerous emails, some by people of color who are sources, who trust us, who were rightfully incensed. At that point, the damage was done. I don’t believe you can make an unwise story disappear and pretend it didn’t happen. I observed how Amy Pascal raced around with knee-jerk apologies to anyone who’d listen, after those stolen Sony e-mails surfaced. Her actions felt like panicked damage control to me; we decided to face the consequences and take our lumps. We did that in the comment tail following that story, where over 700 readers teed off on us. Nellie is trained in the sciences and used those sensibilities to analyze a data sample; the word “ethnic” is commonly used by casting agents. None of that works when talking about people, and race. Our writers, and editors can be so focused on these trees they sometimes forget to look at the forest, or in this case, the readers who are much more than statistics. A perfect storm of events left us vulnerable, including me choosing the worst time to be zonked from a 22-hour return flight from New Zealand, and normally smart editors on duty failing to respond decisively even after a torrent of hostile comments rolled in.

…I wanted to say a few things to our core readers who felt betrayed. That original headline does not reflect the collective sensibility here at Deadline. The only appropriate way to view racial diversity in casting is to see it as a wonderful thing, and to hope that Hollwyood continues to make room for people of color. The missteps were dealt with internally; we will do our best to make sure that kind of insensitivity doesn’t surface again here. As co-editors in chief, Nellie and I apologize deeply and sincerely to those who’ve been hurt by this. There is no excuse. It is important to us that Deadline readers know we understand why you felt betrayed, and that our hearts are heavy with regret. We will move forward determined to do better.

Interestingly enough, the apology is couched in a conversational-style post about other topics, like Frank Sinatra and tentpole movies. Okay. It’s kinda like an “Here’s your apology, now lets get to more important topics.” I kinda feel like the apology could have been made in its own post, but some might feel like that’s nitpicking. However, I think writing the apology in its own post would give the offense the gravitas it needs to be dealt with, instead of saying, “I’m heartily sorry—Now on to Frank Sinatra!” But whatever. They apologized.

I’ll say this: I’m glad their hearts are filled with regret, as they should be. The one way to regain trust is to do what Fleming said—”…do [their] best to make sure that kind of insensitivity doesn’t surface again here.”

The apology also does give some explanation as to how a post like this could be published—somehow, the editors were not responding to posts, Fleming himself was MIA from jetlag, and a staff was left to their own devices, basically. Having been in a newsroom before (albeit a college newsroom), it’s true that anything could happen when the captain isn’t there to oversee the ship. There are some other things I could say about this (since Andreeva is also a co-editor-in-chief and should share the same vision Fleming appears to have for Deadline), but it would begin to sound too much like a mean-spirited read, and I don’t feel like doing that.

Also, I don’t doubt casting folks use “ethnic” in their call sheets. I’m sure they use a lot of coded language in call sheets; along with the implicit bias there is towards white actors in entertainment, there are also times when they clearly state they want only white actors. Case-in-point, that horrible moment when a casting director said she only wanted white people for Hobbits in first Hobbit film because to her, Hobbits were only white. 

But, if Andreeva was trying to argue if casting people of color was only seen as a trend in Hollywood—which is an important conversation to have—it could have been written in many different, more salient ways than how Andreeva chose to write it. Some examples:

• “Does Hollywood Only View Casting People of Color as a Trend?”

• “The Importance of Viewing Diverse Casting as More Than a Hollywood Trend”

• “Pilots 2015: Diverse Casting is a Game-Changer”

• “Pilots 2015: Record Number of Pilots Include People of Color”

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But still. In any case, thanks for the apology, Deadline.

What do you think about the apology? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

 

 

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