NEW YORK — The Asian American Journalists Association has taken The New York Post to task for the front-page illustration in its Jan. 23 issue showing newly signed New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in a World War II-era Japanese airplane.
The headline: “$155M Bronx Bomber: Yanks sign Japanese ace.”
In a Jan. 28 letter to Frank Zini, the newspaper’s managing editor, AAJA MediaWatch Chair Bobby Caina Calvan and AAJA President Paul Cheung wrote:
“Your front page last Thursday showed recently signed Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the cockpit of a Japanese warplane, labeling him the ‘$155M Bronx Bomber’ and a new ‘Japanese ace.’
“The depiction was of poor taste, and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is relieved to learn that editors at The Post also found the graphic offensive and pulled it – but not before some editions containing the objectionable cover hit the street.
“We appreciate your candor in explaining, in an email responding to AAJA’s query, that the image and accompanying headline were meant to ‘amuse and play off the Yankee nickname Bronx Bombers.’ We take you at your word that it was not the paper’s intent to offend.
“However, when something that egregious is published, we believe it warrants a more direct apology.
“We’re sure you understand how hurtful and damaging stereotypes are. Seeing Tanaka, a Japanese national, depicted in such a way conjured up hateful imagery.
“To this day, the ‘kamikaze’ imagery remains a powerful reminder of past racism. We all know about Pearl Harbor, but many people in our communities also remember how strong anti-Japanese sentiment sent 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans to internment camps.
“It’s our duty at AAJA MediaWatch to promote understanding, awareness and sensitivity within the journalism industry about race, ethnicity and culture. And we hope The Post will join us in making sure all of our communities are treated with the respect they deserve.
“AAJA and MediaWatch stand ready to assist news organizations that have questions or concerns about news coverage and race. One resource is our online stylebook on Asian Americans to help newsrooms improve their coverage. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.”
In his response to AAJA’s initial inquiry about the cover, Zini wrote, “We recognized early on that an image intended to amuse and play off the Yankee nickname ‘Bronx Bombers’ might be considered offensive by some people, even though that was not our intention. Therefore, it was removed after a very small number of papers had been printed.”
Although a new cover was substituted, an image of the original cover was circulated on Facebook and other social media.