Indy Star Pulls Duke Illustration From Paper; Was It Really a Big Deal?

This story feels like something of a media Rorschach test. The Indianapolis Star, not exactly a small-town rag, had the illustration to the right in its sports section today. (Click the image to enlarge.) Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's image is made to look like it's been scrawled on with a pen by a scornful fan of the opposition. It's an illustration that accompanies a story titled: "Despising Duke." And of course, in the illustration, it's supposed to look like someone wrote in "Duke Is No Good." ↵

↵Now, like the Duke Blue Devils themselves, this will provoke reactions all around. People who hate Duke will love this. People who are Duke fans will probably work themselves into a lather about respect or something else silly. But somewhere in between, a person like me who has no stake in this thing, is left to wonder about the reaction the Indianapolis Star had after it was published. The Star actually pulled the illustrations from late editions of the paper. ↵

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↵⇥“Duke is a classy operation yet our story fairly spoke of the strong emotions many have about the team,” Star editor Dennis Ryerson wrote in an e-mail. “The photo-illustration was ... not representative, I’m sure, of the attitude of Hoosiers toward the Duke team.” ↵
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↵Duke actually has two players -- Mason and Miles Plumlee -- who are from Indiana this season. But the illustration isn't intended to represent a hateful attitude toward the Blue Devils by people in the state of Indiana or the Star. Much of the story is actually focused on how Duke plays second fiddle to North Carolina in its home state. Players quoted in the story talk about how big Duke was where they came from and how they are surprised at in-state hate in particular. ↵

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↵Regardless, there's no malicious intent in the story, but I suspect that a number of readers who were inflamed by the illustration probably never made it to the first sentence. I wouldn't be surprised if most complaints via e-mail and phone were lodged before ever reading the story. The illustration is actually pretty clever and it strikes me as one of those situations where there's a divide between a print audience and a web audience. ↵

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↵If this was on the home page of FOXSports.com, it would be pretty subdued. (There would probably be strippers in the background or something.) If ESPN did something similar about, say, Al Davis, would you be surprised? The story -- while not exactly groundbreaking -- really just discusses the strong emotions that any team wearing "Duke" across their chest tends to evoke. By newspaper standards, the illustration is probably a little out there, but what has being overly conservative with choices really gotten newspapers in the last decade? Maybe breaking away from being so rigid isn't the worst thing in the world. But I leave this one up for debate, because it seems like a matter of taste: Are you offended by the illustration? By the story? If you're offended, do you at least understand what they're trying to do there? ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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