As Katie Taylor of Ireland celebrated her win against Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas, the headline at the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and across other publications by the Herald’s
As Katie Taylor of Ireland celebrated her win against Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas, the headline at the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and across other publications by the Herald’s parent company appeared as follows when the Irish Times newspaper reported on international coverage of the Olympics: “Punch Drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards boxing gold”.
Peter Hanlon, the writer of the story, went on in the opening paragraph, saying this about Taylor and the reaction across the country. “For centuries, Guinness and whiskey have sent the Irish off their heads. Now all it takes is a petite 26-year-old from Wicklow,” Hanlon wrote according to a report on the article from the Times. “Dark-haired, deep-eyed and engaging, Taylor is not what you’d expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who’d prefer a punch to a potato.”
The article provoked much criticism from readers, saying the article had been racist and offensive, and prompted a letter to the Herald’s parent company Fairfax Media from Noel White, Ireland’s ambassador to Australia. In the letter, published in full on the Herald’s web site, White wrote that the article was offensive. “References to intoxication and to named drinks are inappropriate and beneath the standard that one expects of Fairfax Media,” White wrote. “Irish people, much like Australians, take tremendous pride in their sporting heroes. It is to be hoped that reporting on her performance will be free of the kind of commentary which causes unnecessary and unjustifiable upset.”
The article has since been edited and Fairfax has apologised for the incident, as has Hanlon. However, the Herald was not the only one to cause criticism.
The US publication USA Today also wrote about Katie Taylor and was also criticised for its use of racist and offensive terms. For the US media, this comes after continued complaints over coverage by the US Olympics broadcaster NBC, including tape delaying events and remarks in commentary of various events.
Sports columnist Jon Saraceno wrote this when examining Ireland’s reaction to Taylor’s match. “Back home on the emerald-green isle, pints of Guinness flowed freely, perhaps enough to replenish the Irish Sea. The “punters” inside betting parlors wagered pounds as if they were bits of candy,” Saraceno wrote according to the Times. “It is not hyperbole to suggest that, when Taylor entered the ring, the weight of a prideful, scuffling nation rested on her muscular shoulders.” The article also mentioned the incorrect currency of Ireland (the euro instead of the pound) and used Bray as a county, not a town in County Dublin.
That article too has since been edited, removing the paragraph in question and amending the issues specified.
The Olympics is a global spectacle. Yet this type of journalism that stereotypes raises questions. Journalists and readers know that stereotyping is not good in journalism and for journalism, and in the means of the Olympic spirit, should be avoided. Moreover, the journalism that should come from the Olympics must reflect the pride of a country and the skill of the athlete, whilst being not just engaging, but most importantly accurate.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece is part of a series for Kettle on London 2012 and the press.