april fools.jpg
Some jokes should be avoided at all costs.
The Seattle Times has decided to cut ties with Burien-based B-Town Blog and four other "partner" neighborhood


Seattle Times Drops Burien Blog Because of Poorly Executed April Fools Day Posts

april fools.jpg
Some jokes should be avoided at all costs.
The Seattle Times has decided to cut ties with Burien-based B-Town Blog and four other "partner" neighborhood blogs after some poorly executed April Fools Day posts. PubliCola first reported the split yesterday, focusing on fake posts "written" by a B-Town intern:
The posts included a headshot of an African-American teenager and fake "quotes" written in patois rife with words like "dis" and "dat."

For example, the first post "quoted" Patrickson thus: "I'm honored that [blog editor] Scott [Schaefer] is trusting me with da keys to deser here blogs, eh" Patrickson said. "I just hope I can deliver da caliber of journalism that's expected here, oh ya oh eh?"

Of course, there was no actual intern. And the post was just an attempt at humor by B-Town's editor Scott Schaefer, a former writer for "Bill Nye the Science Guy." But the combination of a black guy's headshot and some unfortunately utilized slang made the Times uneasy.

"Several people called out that the use of language like 'dis' and 'dat,'" said Bob Payne, director of communities for the Times, to PubliCola. "It just made people uncomfortable--especially when you have a picture of an African-American kid there."

For his part, Schaefer says it's all a big misunderstanding, considering he meant the intern to sound Canadian. (Which makes you wonder if he's ever met a Canadian.) And in a follow-up e-mail, he says the Times never told him they were going to be playing the race card.

When I first spoke with (The Times' digital news managing editor) Kathy Best on the phone within an hour after receiving the "breakup" email, she first mentioned that the reason for the split was for the following reasons:

1. KB said they received "some complaints" about our fake issue. I asked how many; her answer: "3." I asked who complained. She said she wasn't sure (meaning it could've just been staffers but it's not like a LOT of people were upset).

2. She apparently didn't like the fake headline for the fake 3rd runway story; I reminded her that it was a fairly obvious joke in that Hoffa's remains were mentioned in the lead of the story (looking back I should've included it in the headline for those without senses of humor but such is the world of comedy, eh?).

3. Far as I can recall, the "race" issue was not one of the main reasons stated by KB. I 'd like to clarify something about the fake Intern - I was actually trying to make him "speak" with a bad Canadian accent/dialect, and apologize to anyone who thinks it was racist to say "dis" or "dat." But to pull the "race card" on me is WRONG, IMHO.

Some other notes of interest:

- I ran the whole April Fools' Day issue past Bob Payne days before we posted it; we discussed placing a disclaimer at the bottom of each story (we did). So they knew it was coming, and he seemingly approved of the idea as long as we included a disclaimer. I just wish I had a recording of that phone call!

- one of the first fake stories we posted April 1 was about how Burien had a new sister city: "Slooflir, PA" (perhaps The Times staff can't spell backwards?), which we mentioned in each fake story as a sort of code.

- we received ZERO complaints about what we did. ZERO. In fact, we received numerous compliments and "Thanks for the laugh" type comments on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/btownblog).

- losing the partnership with The Times is not a big deal to us; we were doing fine before them and we'll do fine without them (they only drove about 1,300 uniques to us over 3 weeks). And quite honestly, I'd rather NOT be beholden to a dying Seattle media behemoth without a sense of humor and do content that serves our Readers.

The lesson, as always: if you're going to poorly execute a joke, don't make it about race.
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