Home>Highlight>Asbury Park Press has broken trust with readers, legislator says

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold). (Photo: Assembly Majority Office).

Asbury Park Press has broken trust with readers, legislator says

Joann Downey says newspaper needs to regain confidence after offensive photo caption

By David Wildstein, March 24 2021 7:37 am

A Monmouth County lawmaker believes the Asbury Park Press needs to be more accountable for a sexist, anti-Semitic photo caption that led to the firing of one of the journalists.

Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Joann Downey (D-Freehold) said she found the caption describing a nurse loading a syringe with a  dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as “a fucking hot nurse, a total JAP” as “inexcusable.”

“Not only is the Asbury Park Press in charge of writing unbiased and fact driven coverage, it needs to resemble an organization that its readers can trust,” said Downey. “What happened the past few days has broken that trust, and it will take a while to build it back.”

The three-term legislator leveled a harsh critique of the Monmouth County-based daily newspaper.

“This type of mistake proves that while there are people who believe themselves to be free of sexist and racist thoughts and actions, everyone can find room to grow, and check their own implicit biases,” Downey said.  The APP needs to be held accountable for their actions, and continuously improve its system to ensure its staffers understand the magnitude of their words whether those words are intended to be published or not.”

Downey panned the newspaper for not printing criticism of the caption leveled by top political leaders, instead limiting their comment to a column by executive editor Paul D’Ambrosio that offered only the Asbury Park Press’ side of the story.

“There needs to be an acknowledgement that people are upset,” Downey said.  “There’s still racism. There’s still misogyny.”

Gov. Phil Murphy, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) and State Sens. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) denounced the offensive caption on Monday.

D’Ambrosio ignored questions beyond what he wrote and did not specifically identify the employee he fired.  The New Jersey Globe confirmed that it was Gustavo Martínez Contreras, a veteran news photographer.

The Gannett-owned newspaper might not find it easy to move beyond D’Ambrosio’s statement without addressing details of how the vulgar caption appeared in the first place.

“While we appreciate that (the) Asbury Park Press has apologized and changed their procedures to avoid troubling incidents like these in the future, we are concerned that the cause may go beyond procedures and call on the APP to perform a full investigation,” said Scott Richman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for New York and New Jersey. “We hope to have meaningful conversations with (the) APP as soon as possible to address any issues and ensure that no population is subjected top this kind of treatment in the future.”

The nurse in the photo, taken at a Lakewood health care facility, is an Orthodox Jew.

(Image: Asbury Park Press.)


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