The News Doesn’t Fact Check Racism. It Should.

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Gawker and other outlets recently posted a story of a black Tennessee Red Lobster waitress who received the n-word as a tip – which is not the way you tip someone who brought you shrimp / fish / whatever else they cram down your throat after you load up on biscuits at the Lobster.  The customer wrote none for a tip and then the n-word for the total.  The Huffington Post headlined the incident “Racist Receipt Apparently Left By Red Lobster Customer.”

But apparently the Huffington Post makes an ass out of itself when it posts “news” based on no investigation. Sure, the waitress’s Dad did post a picture of the receipt on Facebook. Sure eventually there was an outpouring of online donations that resulted in a $10,000 check for the waitress who “was shocked in September when a customer allegedly left her a receipt that read “None n**ger,” in place of the tip line.

But the person who was most shocked by it all was Devin Barnes – the man who signed the receipt. He didn’t know about any of this until his father called him according to an ABC interview:

His father telephoned him to ask, ‘What happened? Someone wrote the N-word on your receipt,’” Barnes said today, adding that his dad had gotten wind of the incident on the Internet. “I thought he was lying. But I pulled it up on her [Jenkins] Facebook page and just thought, ‘I didn’t write this, I don’t know who wrote it.”

That has to be one of the more awkward father son conversations – ranking somewhere between the birds and the bees and discussing why you need yet another packet of tube socks when you never wear tube socks and they’ve been out of style since 1986. Here’s a hint to parents – if kids are begging for clothes that come in a bulk pack, its not for wearing.

Barnes admits that he did write “none” on the tip line because he and his wife had to leave the restaurant and get the food to go. Since the receipt went  online, he’s received death threats among a bevvy of criticism. The outcry grew so loud Barnes hired a handwriting expert to analyze the receipt. The expert concluded, “There is evidence to indicate that Devin Barnes did not write the total entry. No significant handwriting characteristic similarities were noted.” Barnes is now suing Jenkins.

So if Barnes didn’t write it, who did? A simple look at Jenkin’s twitter presence certainly raises some suspicion.

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But really, who cares if some crazy Red Lobster chick created a race hoax? The bigger question is when did society have to be re-examined every time something bad happens to a kid who spends her day refilling jars of tartar sauce? And why do we take the tartar slinger’s word at face value? Hell, servers are trained to lie. When I worked at a diner, I was mandated to ask people how their day was and tell them that our pie was delicious. Shocker – I didn’t give a shit how people’s day was and the pie came frozen to the restaurant on a tri-monthly basis. All waiters do is lie.

So why didn’t anyone contact Barnes before posting the receipt? Why didn’t a reputable news source like the Huffington Post at least call the person being accused of writing the n-word, and like, ask him if he did it? Why not take ten seconds to get the other side of the story and do the slightest bit of fact checking? I think the answer lies somewhere in this quote from the waitress:

“Before I assumed most people wouldn’t care or think this was a big deal because it happens everyday all over the world.”

Clearly the Huffington post agrees with that sentiment. This happens so often, why do we need to fact check it?! But the better question is if this happens so much, why in God’s name is it news? The sun rising everyday is perhaps the most miraculous thing on earth, but somewhere around the 15th time it happened humans stopped reporting it with surprise.  Otherwise every headline of the Huffington Post would be either “Sun rises again!” or “Is This Kendall Jenner’s tiniest bikini yet?” – whichever got more views.

The reason the racist receipt is news, to the dislike of Huffington Post and Gawker, is that it doesn’t happen often. Do racists exist? Yes. But do they walk around writing the n-word on random Red Lobster receipts? No. Real life racism is not as obvious or pervasive. Stories (hoaxes) like this one go viral because they are so rare, not so common.

That’s why if you look at the Huffington Post site, the only update to this article is this one pertaining to when Jenkins was suspended for posting the receipt against store policy:

This story has been updated to include news of Jenkins’s suspension.

It seems they can make the time to bolster the lies that drive traffic, but when its time to update the articles for accuracy – that, they don’t have time for. Let’s hope Barnes succeeds in his lawsuit so the internet’s money eventually goes to the victim.

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