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Golfweek fires editor responsible for 'noose' imagery

1/20/2008 - Golf

Ten days after a Golf Channel anchor was suspended for her use
of "lynch" in commentary on Tiger Woods, an editor was fired
Friday for illustrating the controversy with a noose on the cover
of Golfweek magazine.

Dave Seanor, vice president and editor who took responsibility
for the noose cover of the Jan. 19 issue, was replaced by Jeff
Babineau.

"We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received
extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and
advertisers across the country," Turnstile Publishing Co.
president William J. Kupper Jr. said. "We were trying to convey
the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic
image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover
deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic."

Turnstile is the parent company of Golfweek, which has a
circulation of about 160,000.

Golfweek removed its Jan. 19 issue from its booth at the PGA
Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., while Babineau made the rounds
on news talk shows to offer more apologies. The magazine also
removed the cover from its Web site.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called the Golfweek cover
"outrageous and irresponsible" and accused the magazine of
tabloid journalism. He distanced himself from the firing of Seanor
with a statement from the PGA Tour that Finchem merely was
responding to an inquiry, and that his comments were not a "call
to action."

Woods, out of public view for the last month, makes his 2008
debut on the PGA Tour next week at the Buick Invitational, where
Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman returns from a two-week
suspension.

Woods has not spoken publicly, although his agent said in a
statement through Golf Channel last week that Woods and Tilghman
are friends, and "we know unequivocally that there was no ill
intent in her comments."

The episode began Jan. 4 during the second round of the
season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship when Tilghman and analyst
Nick Faldo were discussing possible challengers to Woods.

Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just
gang up [on him] for a while."

"Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman said, laughing.

Golf Channel issued a statement four days later to say it
regretted the comment and that Tilghman had apologized to Woods.
But when the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded on CNN that she be fired,
Golf Channel suspended Tilghman for two weeks.

The Golfweek cover shows a noose against a purple sky with the
title, "Caught in a Noose." The subtitle said, "Tilghman slips
up, and Golf Channel can't wriggle free." For many, the noose is
symbol of lynchings in the Old South. According to Tuskeege
University, 3,466 blacks were lynched in the United States from
1882 to 1968.

The magazine devoted four pages of news and commentary on the
topic, including a column on the back page supporting Tilghman and
asking that the controversy be kept in context.

In an editorial, the magazine explained why it felt the Tilghman
story deserved so much attention. It was accompanied by a cartoon
that showed Sharpton holding a noose and offering it to a pair of
Golf Channel employees staring into a hole of thin ice, presumably
where Tilghman had been standing.


"One [potential] cover we had this week was on the young Australian phenom Jason Day," Babineau said Friday in an interview on the Dan Patrick radio program, "and had we had to do it over again, certainly we wish we could go back to Monday and put that one on the cover."

Babineau said he will write a story in the next issue of Golfweek to address the controversy.

"Our job is to say we're sorry, and we're going to do it with a front cover letter that I'm going to write, and we'll go on and cover the business of golf as we always did."

The harshest criticism came from Finchem. The PGA Tour is in the
second year of an unprecedented 15-year contract with Golf Channel
to broadcast its weekday coverage and full coverage of 14
tournaments.

"Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate,
and she obviously regrets her choice of words," Finchem said in a
statement. "But we consider Golfweek's imagery of a swinging noose
on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible. It smacks of
tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep
alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

The tour issued a statement Friday that said Finchem's comments
were "a response to an inquiry and an expression of the tour's
dissatisfaction with Golfweek's choice of a cover image." The tour
said Golfweek's decision on its editorial leadership was an
internal matter.

Jim Thorpe, 58, is one of two black players on the Champions
Tour. He sharply criticized Seanor.

"That was absolutely stupid. That was just throwing fuel on the
fire," Thorpe said.

"Why would you do that? He knew better."

Thorpe has won three times on the PGA Tour and
13 times on the Champions Tour.

"It's a shame we live in a world today stuff like that still
occurs," he said.

Thorpe defended Tilghman, whom he knows personally. He said her
comments weren't intended as a malicious statement. He said the
anchor could have used many different words instead, but chose the
wrong one.

"We know there was no racist intent. It was just a bad choice
of words," he said. "But the guy from Golfweek? Let him get
barbecued. That's just a major mistake on his part."

Meanwhile, CBSSports.com reported Thursday that Jack Peter,
chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame, said tour
officials had told the magazine it might withdraw $50,000 in
advertisements for the World Golf Village.

"Jack was not speaking on behalf of the PGA Tour," spokesman
Ty Votaw said Friday. "I can categorically tell you the PGA Tour
has not threatened any advertising pull."

Among the tour's corporate marketing partners is Golf Digest
Publications, which publishes the weekly magazine Golf World, a
competitor of Golfweek. Golf World has an editorial relationship with ESPN.com.

"We have partnerships with a lot of media companies," Votaw
said. "This was an editorial decision that Tim was expressing an
opinion about. I don't think anyone should read anything else into
it. It was simply a reaction to the image on the cover."

Babineau has worked for Golfweek the last nine years as editor,
deputy editor and senior writer.

"We know we have a job ahead of us to re-earn the trust and
confidence of many loyal readers," he said. "Our staff is very
passionate about the game. Our wish is that one regretful error
does not erase more than 30 years of service we've dedicated to
this industry."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report