By now, you all know the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard—kidnapped for 18 years, completely isolated in a series of structures in her captors’ backyard, raped repeatedly. OC Register columnist Mark Whicker took a rather unique approach to covering Jaycee’s story. Rather than focus on the horrible abuse, Whicker chose to talk about … all the sports Jaycee missed in those 18 years. He expressed deep sadness that while in captivity, the girl couldn’t “spike a volleyball … or pitch a softball … or smack a forehand down the line.” Whicker then opined, “Now, that’s deprivation.” He goes on to provide Dugard with a list of all the sports happenings she missed while she was, oh, having her rapist’s children. Whicker talked about Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, steroids, coaches, retired athletes, sports flicks and even said, “I know you’ve had trouble digesting all this so far, but they also built a basketball arena at USC. Honest to God.” He ended by saying, “Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard.” [OC Register]
I’m not surprised that there was significant backlash from readers. In response, Whicker wrote an apology yesterday. “I wrote a column that clearly offended and outraged large portions of our readership,” he said. “For 22 1/2 years at The Register, I feel like I’ve had a good and direct relationship with our audience. This column appears to have disconnected that bond with at least part of our readers. For that I apologize. It’s impossible to un-ring a bell. I’m hopeful that I can be forgiven for this lapse of professionalism.”
Cool. But we’re left wondering … how did this article get approved in the first place!? The editor must have stayed up seriously late the night before. I imagine a conversation that likely went like this:
Whicker: So, you know that chick who was kidnapped and raped for 18 years? Well, I’m going to write a column about her where I talk about all the sports highlights she’s missed. World news, technology, and international conflict be damned!
Colleague: Don’t you think that could come off as a bit insensitive?
Editor: Nah! The girl wasn’t killed! I say go with it, Whicker, and make it funny. Now where’s my coffee?
What do you think—was this column funny or tacky?