In a column posted on Sunday, Deadline Editor Mike Fleming Jr. expressed regret over a March 24 article that seemed to suggest that there was too much “ethnic” casting in Hollywood at the expense of white actors.
A coalition of Asian Pacific American, African American, Native American and Hispanic media watchdog groups issued a statement denouncing the website’s article, saying that it implied there were quotas amounting to “reverse discrimination.”
Fleming’s response appeared in a weekly column in which he had a conversation with Peter Bart, with whom he worked for two decades at Daily Variety.
“Deadline ran an article last week that generated controversy and hurt feelings,” Fleming said. “An unfortunate headline — ‘Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings – About Time or Too Much of Good Thing?’ — created a context from which no article could recover.
“My co-editor-in-chief Nellie Andreeva’s goal was to convey that there was such an uptick of TV pilot casting of people of color that it pinched white actors who’ve historically gotten most of the jobs, and to question if this could last if it was being treated as a fad. All this was undermined by that headline (which we changed after the fact) and a repetition of the word ‘ethnic’ that came off cold and insensitive.”
Asked if he considered taking the story down, Fleming said, “That story was up all night. It was 12 hours before I awoke to numerous emails, some by people of color who are sources, who trust us, who were rightfully incensed. At that point, the damage was done. I don’t believe you can make an unwise story disappear and pretend it didn’t happen …
“We decided to face the consequences and take our lumps. We did that in the comment tail following that story, where over 700 readers teed off on us. Nellie is trained in the sciences and used those sensibilities to analyze a data sample; the word ‘ethnic’ is commonly used by casting agents. None of that works when talking about people, and race. Our writers, and editors, can be so focused on the trees they sometimes forget to look at the forest, or in this case, the readers who are much more than statistics.”
Agreeing that the entertainment industry should seek more diversity in front of and behind the camera, Fleming added, “I wanted to say a few things to our core readers who felt betrayed. That original headline does not reflect the collective sensibility here at Deadline. The only appropriate way to view racial diversity in casting is to see it as a wonderful thing, and to hope that Hollywood continues to make room for people of color.
“The missteps were dealt with internally; we will do our best to make sure that kind of insensitivity doesn’t surface again here. As co-editors-in-chief, Nellie and I apologize deeply and sincerely to those who’ve been hurt by this. There is no excuse. It is important to us that Deadline readers know we understand why you felt betrayed, and that our hearts are heavy with regret. We will move forward determined to do better.”