The Calgary Sun apologized after using a “Wait Watchers” headline that seemingly mocked the Alberta Health Minister, Sarah Hoffman. The print-only headline accompanied a story on wait times for health care.
The Sun‘s editor-in-chief, Jose Rodriquez, told iMediaEthics by e-mail the newspaper “did not receive any call complaints, about a half dozen email complaints, the rest was on Twitter, where most of the outrage lived.” He noted that Hoffman didn’t complain but he personally apologized to her over the misinterpretation. Hoffman is also a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and Deputy Premier.
Rodriquez also pointed to his apology on behalf of the paper, which was published online and in Friday’s print edition.
— Duncan Kinney (@duncankinney) January 5, 2017
In that Jan. 5 column, Rodriguez said the headline “was an attempt to be clever that failed. Unintentional, but hurtful nonetheless.” Rodriguez denied that the paper was trying to insult Hoffman personally and said the headline was intended as “a pun on keeping an eye on medical wait lists.”
Rodriguez explained that readers thought the “Wait Watchers” headline targeted Hoffman because of the page design which included a photo of Hoffman. “I assure you, that was not the intent,” he wrote. “It was not a link that was made when the headline was written and the page was created.”
Rodriguez went on, “I can say, without hesitation, that there was no personal hurt intended. But that doesn’t change the fact we created a layout that left it open for people to draw the conclusion that we were personally attacking the minister.”
Rodriguez said he personally contacted Hoffman to apologize, which Hoffman’s office confirmed. Hoffman’s press secretary Laura Ehrkamp told iMediaEthics, “Minister is not available for an interview but I can confirm that the editor for the Calgary Sun contacted her to offer an apology yesterday morning. She accepted the apology. Beyond that, we have no further comment.”
On Twitter, Rodriguez added:
— jose rodriguez (@JRodriguez403) January 5, 2017