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Golfweek Fires Seanor over Golfweek Cover
In response to the racially charged cover of its January 19th issue, Golfweek fired editor Dave Seanor and replaced him with Jeff Babineau. William P. Kupper Jr., president of Turnstile Publishing Company, the parent company of Golfweek, announced the change on Friday morning.
"We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country," Kupper said in a statement. "We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic."
The personnel move came after the magazine ran a stark photo of a noose with an accompanying "Caught in a Noose" heading - with the subhead: "Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can't wiggle free." It certainly got the attention of readers and golf's powers-that-be, including PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who said the imagery was "outrageous and irresponsible."
In a statement released on Thursday by the PGA Tour, Finchem wrote: "It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."
From the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., Seanor told AP's Doug Ferguson: "We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn't anticipate the enormity of it. There's been a huge, negative reaction. I've gotten so many emails. It's a little overwhelming."
Tilghman was suspended for two weeks after using the word "lynch" in an on-air discussion during the Mercedes-Benz Championship over how Tour players might beat Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked player. The word came up as she and co-anchor Nick Faldo were talking about the young challengers to Woods.
Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up (on him) for a while." Tilghman replied, "Lynch him in a back alley."
That one word set off a firestorm. Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that Tilghman be fired, and others were appalled at the racially inflammatory overtones. Tilghman later apologized directly to Woods, whose agent issued a statement that said it was a non-issue. The Golf Channel responded to the uproar by suspending Tilghman, golf's first-ever female on-air anchor, for two weeks. She was absent from the booth during last week's Sony Open and is gone again for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic now underway in Palm Springs.
Seanor was jolted by comments from readers over the cover, telling Ferguson on Thursday that he expected canceled subscriptions over the issue. He wasn't sure if there would be any fallout with advertisers. "I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn't create as much negative reaction," he told Ferguson. "But as this has unfolded, I'm glad there's dialogue. Let's talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf."
As for the Finchem's statement, Seanor said: "I was a little shocked by the commissioner's reaction. It was rather strong, particularly from someone who rarely comments on things on his own tour."
Coincidentally, Golf World, the only other weekly magazine devoted strictly to golf, had Bill Spiller on this week's cover. In a lengthy story written by Al Barkow, Spiller was highlighted on the 60th anniversary of his efforts to integrate the PGA Tour.
The magazine, with a circulation of 160,000, nearly all going to subscribers, received about 100 to 150 demands for cancellations. To date, no known advertisers have pulled out.
Babineau, 45, has been with Golfweek for nine years. He previously served as editor, deputy editor and senior writer. Babineau will report directly to Kupper.
In Friday's statement, Babineau said: "We know we have a job ahead of us to re-earn the trust and confidence of many loyal readers. Our staff is very passionate about the game. Our wish is that one regretful error does not erase more than 30 years of service we've dedicated to this industry."