Friday, May 2, 2008

Playboy Responds To Headline Criticism

As written earlier, the June edition of Playboy will feature a 5,000-word column by Jason Whitlock on the current state of our nation's prison system. The headline of the article reads: "The Black KKK: Thug life is killing Black America. It's time to do something about it."

In response to recent criticism over the headline, Playboy has issued a statement from editorial director, Chris Napolitano.

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"Playboy has an impeccable history in dealing with civil rights issues. We didn't have any ulterior motives when deciding on a headline for Mr. Whitlock's excellent story.

"Even though we used the working title 'The Black KKK' in our assignment letter to Whitlock on February 7, I was not made aware of his displeasure until a month after we had gone to press.

"From the beginning, our idea was not to stir divisiveness but to stir debate. I still believe the title, presentation and planned publicity campaign are appropriate and accurately reflect the points in the article expressed in its introductory paragraph and throughout.

"I feel that most people who read his brilliant cultural commentary will regard it as a powerful indictment of the root causes of violence and despair devastating our cities and suburbs."

Even if Playboy used the term, "The Black KKK", in the original assignment letter to Whitlock in February (something Whitlock should have caught, by the way), it still does not absolve Playboy and/or Napolitano of poor judgement. Just because Whitlock originally came up with the phrase and has used it frequently, doesn't make using it again a good decision.

Unless of course, you are trying to sell magazines!

UPDATE: Since the publishing of this post, Jason Whitlock e-mailed me in response to the Playboy statement. This seems to be a classic case of "he said, he said." Here is Whitlock's version of the story.

"They sent the contract/assignment letter at the end of March, after I'd already filed the column. Yeah, it's dated Feb. 7 on the letter, but they didn't put it in the mail until the end of March. Because of travel, I never even opened it until April 20 and sent it back, and they received it on April 23rd, the day they sent me their racist pitch letter."

Again, it's all "he said, he said" at this point. Either way, there's been a serious lack of editorial and moral judgement here. Blame can be pointed in either, if not, both directions.

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