Apologetic WGN vows to be ‘more sensitive going forward’

Tom Negovan (WGN-TV, September 22)

Tom Negovan (WGN, September 22, 2015)

Newsroom employees of WGN-Channel 9 will attend training and educational sessions on the Holocaust and related issues to prevent a recurrence of the "horrible error" that turned a story about Yom Kippur into a worldwide embarrassment for the Tribune Media station.

Greg Easterly, president and general manager of WGN, said Friday an investigation is continuing into how a symbol of the Nazi persecution of Jews was used to illustrate a story about the Jewish Day of Atonement on Tuesday’s late newscast. Although the station apologized immediately, the image went viral and continues to heap shame on WGN.

Sources said the individual initially responsible for selecting the offensive graphic has been identified and disciplined. “We still have a lot to review,” Easterly said. “This is not over.”

Greg Easterly

Greg Easterly

In the wake of the controversy, Easterly said, officials of Tribune Broadcasting and WGN have reached out to leaders in Chicago’s Jewish community “for additional guidance on how we can be more sensitive going forward.” In addition, the offending image has been removed from the station’s computer graphics bank.

The image of a yellow Star of David and the word “Jude” (German for “Jew”), which millions of Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis in World War II, appeared over the shoulder of substitute news anchor Tom Negovan on a story about the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur Tuesday night. The brief story he read made no reference to the graphic and included no other illustration.

Earlier Easterly and news director Jennifer Lyons issued an apology, which read in part: “We failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol.  This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.”

Here is the text of Easterly’s followup statement Friday:

We’d like to bring our viewers an update on Tuesday night’s unfortunate mistake and assure you that we take this situation very seriously.  

Here are the immediate actions we have taken:

  • Training and educational sessions will be held for all WGN-TV newsroom personnel.
  • The image has been removed from our graphics bank.   We acknowledge and understand why it was offensive and why it was wrong to use.  We apologize for making this mistake.
  • We have reached out to leaders in Chicago’s Jewish community for additional guidance on how we can be more sensitive going forward.

Our investigation into how this error was made continues and we are taking steps to make sure we do everything possible to avoid this happening again.
We appreciate your understanding.