August 26, 2011
ESPN The Magazine editor Chad Millman released a statement Friday about his decision to illustrate a column on the importance of Michael Vick's(notes) race with a Photoshopped image that imagined how a white Vick would look.
Millman neither defended nor rationalized the choice. He barely offered an explanation for the decision to use the picture and the headline "What if Michael Vick were white?" instead stating that the image best represented the scope of the story:
We had several conversations about how to support the essay with imagery that made people think as much as the words did.
Ultimately, the resulting treatment felt like the strongest way to answer the question so many have been asking.
The only thing Millman does is confirm that ESPN The Magazine came to a decision to add an intentionally-provocative headline and a cheap Photoshop image to a column they asked Toure to write. We already knew that.
If there's no apology about the picture or defense of the decision to run it, why release a statement at all? Surely there could have been at least an explanation about why ESPN.com temporarily switched the photo (see right) after the uproar began on Thursday. ESPN has no problem tuning out dissenting opinions. The magazine could have let this story evaporate in the Hurricane Irene news cycle and nobody would have cared in a few days.
Ah, but why pass up the opportunity to keep the story flickering a little longer? Think about it; when do you ever hear anything about ESPN The Magazine other than when it features naked athletes on the cover? The decisions made on the Vick story may be bad journalism or exhibit the lowest of the tabloid mentalities. It was an undeniable attention-grabber for ESPN though.
Up until a few minutes ago, I wasn't even aware that the Vick story appeared in an NFL preview issue that was devoted entirely to Michael Vick. And I wouldn't have ever realized it if it wasn't for the editor-in-chief's blog post. He mentions it in the first sentence.
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