Commentary

2019 Looks Like Another 'Year of Outrage' For Publishers

Looking at recent headlines, 2019 is shaping up as another “Year of Outrage” for publishers, some of which have had to apologize for their editorial and ad content.

Four years ago, former Slate editor Julia Turner described 2014 as a “Year of Outrage” in a package of stories that seem positively tame compared with the Trump era. She also bemoaned the harmful effects of “outrage culture,” such as deadening people’s senses to important problems.

January already has brought all kinds of outrage for publishers.

For starters, an anti-LGBTQ group this week condemned Parents magazine for featuring a same-sex couple on the cover of its February issue. One Million Moms, which is part of the conservative American Family Association, proudly brandished its homophobia with the criticism that “Parents is using its magazine as a platform to promote the pro-homosexual lifestyle.”

An in-flight airline magazine this week had to apologize after being accused of publishing an image of a pork dish in its January issue. Malaysia Airlines said it didn’t mean to offend anyone with a magazine ad for a restaurant that served pork, which Islamic law forbids. The national carrier of the Islamic country also pointed out that the pictured meat in question actually was beef.

Conservative opinion magazine the National Review on Tuesday apologized to readers after helping to fan the flames of outrage in a column that was later removed from its website. Columnist Nicholas Frankovich had describe a group of Catholic high school students as evildoers “who might as well have just spit on the cross” in response to a video clip that went viral on Twitter.

The video purported to show a standoff between the students and an elderly Native American man at a protest march in Washington. As it turned out, the incident was much more complicated, as lengthier videos showed more context.

Rick Lowry, the editor of the National Review, sent out a link to its apology in a tweet that said, “NR’s editorial on Covington, including an apology for our f*** up.”

GQ’s Nathaniel Friedman apologized for his tweet that said, “Doxx ‘em all” in reference to the high-school kids. He said the tweet was “irresponsible” and occurred “in the heat of the moment because I was upset.”

A freelancer for Vulture, New York Media’s pop-culture site, was fired from his day job as a post-production supervisor at INE Entertainment. Erik Abriss said on Twitter that he wanted the group of teens and their parents to die.

Thankfully, no one got killed amid the outrage, death threats and calls to punish the students.

Generally, it’s heartening to see publishers stir up outrage when it leads to healthy discussion and a higher understanding. But perhaps I’m too optimistic in a way that Slate’s Turner wasn’t four years ago.

“The same cycle occurs regardless of the gravity of the offense, which can make each outrage feel forgettable, replaceable,” Turner wrote.

Slate’s year-end review came 15 years after former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett published “The Death of Outrage.” The book pondered why there was so little public outrage amid evidence of corruption in the Clinton administration, specifically during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Bennett needn’t worry about outrage culture now. It’s practically ingrained in the news cycle.

1 comment about "2019 Looks Like Another 'Year of Outrage' For Publishers".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 23, 2019 at 3:10 p.m.

    Rob, I see this totally from a different view. As a publisher of 15 years and a large membership, the very simple way to avoid many of the problems you discussed is to set down a firm set of rules. This came about early on after one member commended on another member family history. In short this set off a race riot in the comment section. We created a simple box to turn off any members' ability to comment and to suspend them. Yes I received hate email from a couple of members who wanted "their free speech rights back". The vast majority of the members didn't what the haters and supported my position. the whole point for publishers is to set the rules up front and clearly about a code of conduct while on their sites. Tell them if they want to talk politics, there are go to the news sites to talk about your views and to keep them off mine. As a publisher, this is about backbone.

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