Mark Whicker is in hot water for a recent column that makes reference to Jaycee Dugard’s 18-year-long abduction and sexual assault for comic effect. Sports writer Michael David Smith emailed Whicker to ask “if he came up with the idea for the column or if an editor assigned it, whether he thinks his words run the risk of trivializing the kidnapping of Dugard, and what he thinks about the response.”
1. It was my concept, which was to (1) celebrate the release of the girl and (2) show just how long 18 years in confinement really is, in the context of sports, which is something sports readers understand, presumably.. If you say “18 years” that’s a little abstract and incomprehensible. If you say “Michael Jordan hadn’t won an NBA championship yet,” that’s a little easier to fathom.
2. I don’t think writing about something in a sports context “trivializes” it at all. The idea that sports writers should ignore the outside world went out a long time ago.
3. I am quite surprised by the angry tone of the reaction. Some have asked me why I didn’t make light of the 9/11 attack or the Holocaust while I was at it, ignoring the fact that this woman is alive. For 18 years the family didn’t know if she was or not. Obviously I mis-read the emotional component of this story because the reaction really has been quite extreme. I think the intent of the column was still valid. I could have changed some ways of expressing it to make it more palatable, I suppose.
After Smith published the email – and his reaction – he received another message from Whicker:
Thanks for ripping me. I’m really happy I devoted part of this very hectic day responding to someone who had as little interest in my viewpoint as the crazies out there.