SB Nation Writer Apologizes For Really Bad Idea
Whenever a journalist writes words that form sentences which articulate ideas, then posts those ideas on the internet, they run the risk of offending people. You can never make everyone happy and be interesting at the same time. That's part of the job. And as you might expect, if you want to write something particularly provocative, the risk of pissing off more people becomes higher. Sympathizing with (or even humanizing) those who've done unspeakable things -- murderers, rapists, etc. -- is undoubtedly the riskiest angle to take. Jeff Arnold and his editors at SB Nation assumed that risk when they published "Who Is Daniel Holtzclaw?" -- a 12,000 word look at the failed professional football career of a police officer who will spend the next 263 years in prison for raping 12 African American women while on-duty.
There's trying to see the other side of a story, and then there's this -- which almost sounds like Arnold was making Daniel Holtzclaw's dashed dreams an excuse for committing sexual assault...
oh, Daniel Holtzclaw raped and assaulted black women bc he was sad about not getting into the NFL pic.twitter.com/7jlEkIi9N0
— jessica testa (@jtes) February 17, 2016
Arnold, an accomplished writer and freelance contributor for SB Nation, promptly took down his Twitter account after outrage over the tonedeaf longform article spread. He penned the following apology on Monday.
In recent days, I have had a chance to reflect on the profile of convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw I worked on for two months in collaboration with the editors at SB Nation. Now that I have some distance on the piece, I see that it presented a lopsided account that failed to acknowledge the suffering of Mr. Holtzclaw’s victims. For that, I apologize.
Throughout an arduous reporting and editing process, my editor and I were mindful that we could never lose sight of those victims or the horrific treatment each of them experienced. But we also felt there was an untold story to be told, which led us to focus on Mr. Holtzclaw, starting with his past as a football player at Eastern Michigan and his pursuit to play in the NFL.
In writing this piece – which was reviewed and signed off on by at least four editors prior to its publication – I hoped to present a more fully-rounded portrait of Mr. Holtzclaw than had appeared in the press. I hoped to explore the question of what had happened to this once-promising young man. I and my editor at SB Nation hoped to find possible answers as to what could have led to him to become a convicted rapist and sexual predator. In the end, though, I produced a piece that had massive shortcomings.
By not spending more time reaching out to victims or their families as a way of accounting for the horrific abuse they suffered, I made a grave mistake. I accept responsibility for that.
While I believe some of the personal attacks on my journalistic integrity and personal character were unfair and unfounded, I take personal and professional responsibility for my work and must, and have, accepted the consequences that have come because of mistakes that occurred – mistakes that I have learned from and will strive not to repeat in the future.
I believe my friends and those who have reached out to offer support over the past several days understand I am not the person I have been made out to be on social media. I know I won't change the minds of some, but sincerely hope my words here help to express the remorse I feel for the damage this story has caused.
Sometimes you swing and you miss. That happens. But when you do, at least try to keep the bat from flying out of your hands and drilling a fan in the face. Arnold seems to have learned this lesson the hard way, as has SB Nation, which suspended its longform program while they do some soul searching. “A nuanced portrait that never loses sight of the fact that women were victimized," one editor wrote in an email about the article. "I think people will be talking about this one.” Hey, at least they got something right. People ARE talking about this one.
You can read the original post, here.
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