On Dec. 30, the Daily Herald (Chicago area) published a tribute to 82 prominent individuals who passed away in the last year, among them Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abu Abbas, who planned the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship. The subhead read: “They enriched our lives in so many ways. Their passings diminish us all. So as the year draws to a close, here is a last look and tribute to some of the many notable figures no longer with us.”
CAMERA E-Mail Team member Bob Mednick contacted editors and elicited a thorough printed apology. Below are his letter, the editor’s response, the subsequent published editor’s note, and an open letter from the editor.
From: Robert Mednick
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2004 12:52 PM
To: Fencepost (Editorial)
Cc: Slusher, Jim
Subject: Notable deaths in 2004
Letter to the Editor:
All I could do is shake my head in utter disbelief when noting your inclusion of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abul Abbas among the 82 individuals identified by the Daily Herald in yesterday’s newspaper as notable figures who died this past year. Can it really be true? Is it possible your editorial staff really believes these two evil murderers, responsible for the deaths of so many innocent victims, have “enriched our lives in so many ways” that “their passings diminish us all”?
I have never been more shocked and appalled in my life. To link these infamous terrorists — the founder of Hamas and planner of the Achille Lauro hijacking — with a Nobel laureate and members of the U.S. Armed Forces killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, among others, is nothing short of blasphemous.
Your readers deserve a public apology and quick retraction of this disgusting, insensitive and immoral statement.
Dear Robert Mednick:
You are, of course, correct that Abul Abbas and Sheik Ahmed Yassin should never be included among a list of individuals who, as our headline said, “enriched our lives.” That we published them in this way is a great embarrassment and a terrible mistake on our part. The photos Thursday were intended to list deaths of notable individuals, not necessarily people who made life better. Unfortunately, the person who wrote the headline for the package didn’t look at every picture and was mistaken about the overall concept, and others involved also failed to review the page with appropriate diligence. Certainly, Yassin and Abbas shouldn’t be characterized as positive influences; indeed, although much less heinous, I’d also say the same for Russ Meyer, Marge Schott, Marvin Mitchelson and several others listed. So, we apologize for the unfortunate characterization in the package. We have scheduled a short editorial running in Saturday’s paper saying we wish we could take this one back. We do, and I’m sure all the editors involved — and all others who weren’t — will pay more attention to detail in the future.
Assistant Managing Editor/Metro News
The Daily Herald
If we had this one to do over:
We try to attend to all the details of producing a daily newspaper. Sometimes, though, we miss. One such occasion came Thursday, when we published photos of prominent people who had died in 2004. A small headline proclaimed that “They enriched our lives…” Most of the 72 nationally or internationally known men and women listed did precisely that. But among those pictured were the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking, which led to the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, and the founder of Hamas, whose military arm carries out suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism in the Middle East. We know better and should have been more attentive. Such reprehensible acts, of course, are far from life-enriching; indeed, they are utterly abhorrent. And we, had we been a little more careful, would have worded our heading differently.
Several days later, Assistant Managing Editor Jim Slusher sent the following letter to CAMERA member Robert Mednick:
Dear Mr. Mednick:
The Daily Herald has received a huge and very gratifying response to our editorial apologizing for our headline last week that implied praise for Ahmed Yassin and Abul Abbas. I understand that most of that response probably comes because you passed along word of our apology to others who were concerned, and I wanted to thank you for that.
Might I also ask you to pass along word that we appreciate the understanding and kindness that so many people showed in acknowledging our editorial. We abhor making mistakes like this, but it is gratifying to us to find so many people were willing not only to accept our apology but also to take the time to tell us so. We appreciate all the correspondence we received. Unfortunately, there is so much that I could not possibly respond without sending an impersonal form letter to each person, so I thought it might be more meaningful if you could pass along our thanks to everyone in the same forum in which you notified people of our editorial.
If this is a problem, please let me know, and I’ll respond differently. You may also be interested to note that I expanded on our editorial with a more lengthy explanation of the situation in my column in today’s paper. If you’re interested in reading that, you can find it at our web site, www.dailyherald.com, or at this link: http://www.dailyherald.com/oped/col_slusher.asp.
Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to explain our mistake and for sharing our response with others who shared your original, understandable, anger and disbelief.