AAJA Questions USA Today’s Take on Oscar Joke


Screen grab from the online version of USA Today's article.

Screen grab from the online version of USA Today’s article.

During the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28, host Chris Rock introduced “Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz,” three “dedicated, accurate and hard-working accountants” who tabulated votes for the Oscars.

Out walked three tuxedo-clad Asian kids with briefcases — an apparent play on the stereotype of Asian and Jewish Americans being model minorities who are good at math.

Rock then added a reference to child labor in Asia: “If anybody is upset about this joke, just tweet about it on your phone, which was also made by these kids.”

The Asian American Journalists Association’s Media Watch Committee was surprised when USA Today listed that incident among Rock’s “10 Best Oscar Jokes” of the evening.

“Are the editors at USA Today not aware how offensive the stereotypes of Asians being math whizzes and the Jewish being money obsessive are, and of the wide diversity within the Asian American community?” the committee asked.

“We want to impress upon the USA Today editors that Asian Americans do not find it funny to be marginalized by ethnic jokes or lack of representation in the entertainment media. As Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, tweeted, ‘It is not right to protest the exclusion of one group by making jokes at the expense of another.’”

USA Today’s response to AAJA’s inquiry was that the story was about the most piercing — not most funny — Rock jokes. However, the headline reads, “Chris Rock’s 10 Best Oscar Jokes.”

“AAJA recommends USA Today change the headline and add a link to the follow-up story about the public outcry,” said Ti-Hua Chang, an award-winning journalist at WNYW/Fox 5 and member of the Media Watch Committee.

“To the media outlets that covered the fallout of the poorly chosen lines while giving the proper context — i.e., why would you repeat the very same stereotypes you’re purportedly trying to eliminate — we salute your efforts. They include GQ, The Daily Mail, BBC News, The Washington Post and many others.

“The failure to reflect America’s communities of color still resides in many institutions, Hollywood included. And those inside the institutions have a responsibility to speak up, to affect change. It’s too bad Chris Rock and the Oscars misfired in this attempt, and some in the media failed to call them out on it.”

Headquartered in San Francisco, AAJA (www.aaja.org) is a national organization with about 1,700 members.



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