On Saturday, February 18th, at around 2:30AM a mobile sports editor put up a headline about the Knicks loss Friday night. “Chink in the armor,” the headline read. The man who was in charge of the mobile headlines that night was Anthony Federico. The 28-year-old had been at ESPN since 2006.
That morning the world was informed about the headline mishap. On that morning we had no idea how this could happen. Was this someone trying to be funny?
It turns out the answer is no.
Here is what we found out yesterday from Federico’s manager:
Anthony Mormile, vice president for mobile content at ESPN, said the Bristol-based editorial team for the mobile sites consists of eight people who usually work two per shift. After 2 a.m., one editor is often catching up on the “back end,” updating content for sports that aren’t in season and taking care of other editorial loose ends. The other editor is generally handling the “front end” of the site, loading up “experience carousels” with headlines, summaries and links to articles. (Because cellphones offer less screen real estate than desktop computers, the mobile editors often write different headlines.)
Mormile said that, on Saturday night, the front-end editor — 28-year-old Anthony Federico, who had six years of experience on the mobile team — liked Begley’s column and decided to spotlight it for the mobile site, sensing that the conversation had shifted from the Knicks’ loss to potential holes in Lin’s game. As Mormile noted, Federico “created more work for himself” in doing so, and, by deciding to feature the Lin story on the mobile home page, “in theory, he did absolutely 100 percent the right thing.”
Unfortunately, his choice of headlines unraveled all that. Said Mormile, “Anthony had no concept, no awareness that could be construed as a potentially explosive headline.”
Federico’s choice of headline that night was a poor one. However, should he be fired for this mistake?
ESPN believes so. Bristol acted quickly and decisively in this matter. Federico was fired no more than 24-hours after this debacle hit the internet.
I believe ESPN went too far in firing Federico.
The management at Bristol needs to take a step back and look at what they just did. This incident need not destroy a man’s livelihood. Federico should be disciplined, 100% yes he should. However, there is no need to fire someone for a mistake like this.
I have to believe that Jeremy Lin himself might agree.
He said he has used the phrase “at least 100 times” in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story.
Federico called Lin one of his heroes – not just because he’s a big Knicks fan, but because he feels a kinship with a fellow “outspoken Christian.”
“My faith is my life,” he said. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”
That from the New York Post. Lin did tell the NY Post; “They’ve apologized, and so from my end, I don’t care anymore. You have to learn to forgive, and I don’t even think that was intentional.”
The only way this guy has prayer of getting his job back is if Lin makes a big fuss about this firing. If Lin thought Federico did this intentionally, no way should he speak out against ESPN’s actions. If he thought this was intentional, Lin shouldn’t even be so easily over the incident. But, clearly, Lin doesn’t believe that Federico’s intent was malicious.
According to the Poynter Institute’s post, Mormile praised Federico as “a good, good kid.” He called the mistake “a momentary lapse of judgment that ended up being an egregious error.”
Mormile is a “VP” in Bristol. If he really runs the mobile platform, he should have come to Federico’s defense. It’s a tremendous shame that he didn’t. This young man is now out of a job, and in a niche industry, he now has this attached to him going forward. Mormile and ESPN might as well attached a screen grab of the headline to Federico’s resume.
This story is all about Anthony Federico. However, we must acknowledge Max Bretos. Bretos, an ESPN anchor, was suspended for 30 days for using the same phrase. The reason for the drastic difference in punishments? Federico had time to deliberate over the usage of the phrase, while Bretos didn’t.
The New York Post operates at a different level than the worldwide leader. Still, a headline like “AMASIAN” is racially motivated. It’s not negative, but it’s racial. Where as “chink in the armor” is a commonly used phrase with zero racial connotation.
Yes, Federico’s headline was awful. That said, if an awful headline was a fireble offense, how many ESPN headline writers would be left?
Although it’s a long-shot, I hope ESPN rethinks their decision in regards to Mr. Federico. I hope others, with more substantial soap boxes, join me in this line of thinking.
[images via NY Post & Gothomist]