“Not funny at all” Chinese Virus Panda-monium headline slammed across social media

APAC News Herald Sun Chinese Virus Pandamonium headline slammed on social media

The Herald Sun’s “We’re for you” slogan does not appear to apply to Chinese-Australians

The Herald Sun newspaper has drawn more than 50,000 comments across western social media channels slamming the Melbourne tabloid for its racial labeling of the coronavirus

31 January 2020 | Marcus Reubenstein

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper has been slammed across social media for calling the novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” planting below that the word “PANDAMONIUM”. The words were emblazoned across the tabloid’s front page on its Wednesday 29 January edition.

An online petition with change.org has to date gathered more than 50,000 signatures calling on the Herald Sun newspaper, owned by News Corp Australia, to apologise. The majority of posts have come from members of the Chinese Australian community but have also angered many non-Chinese Australians.

Non Chinese Australians signing the online petition to demand an apology from Herald Sun
Australians from non-Chinese have been equally offended by the headline

Despite the public outrage, the front-page headline remains posted on the Twitter page of Herald Sun Deputy Editor, Chris Tinkler.

In response to that Twitter post, outraged users tweeted:

“God help me, you’re actually proud of it?”

“This is outrageous. Not acceptable.”

“Disgusting and not funny at all.”

“Panda-monium? Leave the jokes to the rest of us.”

These posts all came from non-Chinese Twitter accounts.

Mixed response from News Corp

The Herald Sun Editor, Sam Weir; Deputy Editor, Chris Tinkler; and the two journalists who wrote the story, Ashley Argoon and Grant McArthur, were all contacted for comment. They have not replied.

Speaking off the record, a source within News Corp told APAC News, “It will take a lot more than 50,000 people signing an online petition to get any reaction from News.”

The offending headline remains posted on Twitter

In contrast to his Melbourne colleagues, editor of the News Corp-owned Sydney Daily Telegraph, Ben English has issued an apology following a headline posted on the same day (29 January).

That headline read “China Kids Stay Home”, which Mr English explained was based on health officials calls that children who’d recently returned to Australia from trips to China should not attend school for 14 days (the period of time in which symptoms of the virus would emerge for people infected).   

He wrote, in today’s edition, “We know Chinese people have long formed an important part of Sydney’s community. If people have taken offence to the headline then I would like to apologise to them.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt addressed local Chinese media in Sydney on Thursday, however, was not questioned about the Herald Sun headline. When contacted later his office did not have any comments on the matter.

The only response from a spokesperson with the Victorian Premier’s office was “I am sourcing a quote to try to meet your deadline.”

Calls for an apology

There have been calls from others condemning the headline.

Kristen Hilton, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, says, “Media organisations can play an important role in sharing health information – but they have a responsibility to report the facts accurately and fairly.

“A sensational headline like this, which links people’s race to an emerging health issue, risks marginalising individuals who are already vulnerable to discrimination or vilification… responsible media organisations must ensure they are not encouraging ridicule or contempt for people because of their race.”

While the Australian Greens have come out strongly against the Herald Sun. Says, Greens Senator, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, “The Herald Sun should apologise and abandon these cheap and offensive tactics to sell newspapers.”

 “Members of the Chinese community have every right to be offended by this terrible headline.”

Senator Mehreen Faruqi

Responding to questions about the headline at a news conference on Wednesday, New South Wales Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kerry Chant made it clear that there “is only one name for this virus, the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

Brad Pedersen is the former deputy mayor of the northern Sydney suburb of Manly, who has organised a “lie-out” protest outside News Corp’s Sydney offices today – an event that had been pre-organised for some time.

The protest started as a funny Facebook post, after he was photographed on the doorstep of the News Corp offices with a sign proclaiming, “Everybody lies here, so why can’t I?”

Of the Herald Sun headline, says Pedersen:

“It’s classic News Corp, softly playing the race card. They’ve been serial offenders for years and years and it’s just done to sell newspapers.”

Brad Pedersen, anti-News Corp campaigner

Wing Kuang, international student and journalist with Melbourne University’s Farrago Magazine, authored an opinion piece carried across Fairfax media (owned by Nine Entertainment). She wrote, “Get the pun? Panda! Why racialise the cause of an epidemic? Anyone from any ethnic background can be infected by coronavirus.”

Related Story: Chinese community praised for coronavirus response