‘Extremely embarrassed’ WGN tries to atone for ‘horrible error’ on Yom Kippur

Tom Negovan

Tom Negovan

While Jews around the world were observing a day of fasting and repentance for their sins Wednesday, Tribune Media’s flagship station WGN-Channel 9 found itself begging for forgiveness and apologizing to viewers and the Jewish community.

Saying they were “extremely embarrassed” by an epic lapse in judgment, WGN officials acknowledged that the station was wrong to use a universally reviled symbol of the Holocaust to illustrate a story heralding the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, on its late newscast Tuesday.

Over substitute news anchor Tom Negovan’s shoulder appeared the image of a yellow Star of David and the word “Jude” (German for “Jew”). Millions of Jews were forced to wear the star badge by the Nazis in World War II. The 28-second story Negovan read made no reference to the graphic on screen and included no other illustration.

Jennifer Lyons

Jennifer Lyons

Jennifer Lyons, news director of WGN, said she saw what she described as the “horrible error” while watching the newscast at home Tuesday night and called the newsroom immediately. The station apologized on the air minutes later, but by that time it was too late to contain the explosion of outrage on social media.

Lyons spent much of the day Wednesday personally responding to viewers with unequivocal apologies. The employees responsible have not been identified.

“We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes happening in the future,” Greg Easterly, president and general manager of WGN, said in a joint statement with Lyons.

Even as Jews observing the High Holy Day were off the grid until sunset Wednesday, the screen image of Negovan and the star went viral, and the controversy became fodder for web sites, news feeds and social media across the Internet.

Here is the text of WGN’s apology:

Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  The artwork chosen to accompany the story came from a graphics image bank.  Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the image was an offensive Nazi symbol.

We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.
Ignorance is not an excuse.

Please know we are reviewing our in house policies and changes have already been made to make sure a hurtful oversight like this never happens again.

Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Lyons
News Director, WGN-TV

Here is the revised text of WGN’s apology:

WGN-TV today issued an apology from General Manager Greg Easterly and News Director Jennifer Lyons, following an error in the September 22 broadcast of WGN News at Nine:
 
“Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Regrettably, 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. 
 
We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes happening in the future.  Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.”