By Ben S. Pollock
Director of Online Media, 2010-12 president
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Joel Brinkley, 2012-14 education chair of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, has come under fire for his column dated Feb. 1, 2013, that compared the diets of several Southeast Asian countries. Brinkley, a Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting, discussed the continued preference by some Vietnamese for dog and rat meat, comparing evidence of malnutrition in nearby nations.
The amount of angry comments drew the attention of media news aggregator Jim Romenesko, who on Thursday, Jan. 31, published a brief on the issue, “Joel Brinkley Defends his Vietnamese Diets Article.”
Brinkley, a former New York Times foreign correspondent who now teaches journalism at Stanford University, answered Romenesko’s query, saying in part, “I was traveling in Vietnam in late December and early January, and this is what I saw with my own eyes, first hand. And this is what the people I interviewed told me. On the issue of meat and aggressiveness, perhaps that was not as well phrased as it should have been. But eating a diet rich in protein will make you more robust than others. …”
The jimromenesko.com piece itself drew many comments as did its posting at Facebook. Brinkley forwarded his own photo of pans of rat carcasses being prepped for cooking by a woman seated on concrete, which Romenesko published.
Romenesko updated his post the evening of Feb. 1 when Tribune Media Services, which syndicates Brinkley, issued a disclaimer that the column “did not meet our journalistic standards.”
“TMS has a rigorous editing process for its content, and in the case of Brinkley’s column that moved Jan. 29, all the required steps did not occur,” the company said.
Readers should find it informative to consider not only this column but the other three that Brinkley published from his winter trip to Southeast Asia. [This article will be updated as information warrants.]
The winter 2012-13 Southeast Asia columns of Joel Brinkley
- Published Feb. 1 in the Chicago Tribune: “Despite Increasing Prosperity, Vietnam’s Appetites Remain Unique.” Tribune Media now has placed its editor’s note below the column and above the comments section. At least one other subscribing newspaper, for example the San Fransisco Chronicle, has not added the syndicate’s statement.
- Brinkley wrote about Pakistan for Jan. 22, with no dateline.
- Published Jan. 15 in the Chicago Tribune: “Food Security Still a Major Issue in Southeast Asia“
- Published Jan. 8 in the Chicago Tribune: “Vietnam Is a Country to Watch“
- Published Jan. 5 in the Chronicle: “Aging Population Ushers in Fraught Future.” The Tribune’s Jan. 1 headline: “Falling Birth Rates Portend a Very Different World“