A multimedia reporter for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey wrote a photo caption that included the phrase "f***ing hot nurse," which was not redacted, along with a slur — and the caption was published in the paper's online edition over the weekend, the New Jersey Globe said.
And now that reporter is out of a job.
"The reporter in question is no longer with the company," the paper's executive editor, Paul D'Ambrosio, said Tuesday morning in an explanation of the debacle.
What are the details?
The author of the caption is Gustavo Martínez Contreras, the station said. The caption read: "A f***ing hot nurse, a total J**, loads a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during in the Center for Health Education, Medicine and Dentistry vaccination tent in Lakewood, New Jersey, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021," WKXW-FM reported, citing a unredacted screenshot of the caption and photo posted by the Globe.
The below screenshot of a tweet containing the image of the caption and photo is redacted:
Image source: Twitter, redacted
The Globe said in a separate story that the photo was of an Orthodox Jewish woman administering the vaccine. The "J**" slur is an acronym that plays into stereotypes of Jewish females.
Contreras is a journalist of 16 years' experience, WKXW said, citing his bio on the Asbury Park Press website.
How did it happen?
While D'Ambrosio's explanation of what went down didn't refer to Contreras by name, the executive editor said the reporter's photo and caption went directly into the paper's online system Saturday without anyone else checking.
He explained that "reporters and photographers can file their images directly into the system, ensuring that breaking news can get to readers as quickly as possible. The usual safeguards involve an editor or digital producer reading the story and captions before publication."
D'Ambriosio said "the offensive caption was live from Saturday night until it was discovered later Sunday."
He said the paper "immediately issued an apology" for the caption, as it was "offensive to women, the Jewish community and ... included a slang term that was simultaneously offensive to Jews and Asian Americans. I thought someone had hacked our content management system. In reality, it was a reporter who admitted that he did a 'stupid, stupid thing.'"
Contreras apologized to D'Ambrosio, WKXW said, noting he prided himself as an advocate of women's rights and cultural sensitivity, "but this caption shows that I have plenty of work to do to address my own issues to make sure that my words and actions always treat others with respect."
D'Ambrosio added that from now on "no photo and caption will be published without another staffer looking it over, regardless of the time of day."
Prior to his Tuesday explanation, D'Ambrosio made an initial apology that was criticized by many leaders — including Gov. Phil Murphy — as inadequate, WKXW reported.
"I frankly didn't believe it. I then read it with [my] own eyes, and it is unfathomable that someone could have written that, even privately, never mind that it was published," Murphy said at a COVID press conference Monday, the Globe said.
He added that "someone has to pay a price for that. That's completely, incredibly offensive. Even the apology missed the point," the paper said.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said Monday the "apology was a good beginning but the author of these horrific and unacceptable comments needs to be held accountable," WKXW said.
The Anti-Defamation League of New York & New Jersey called on the Press to conduct a full investigation and wants to meet with editors "to ensure that no population is subjected to this kind of treatment in the future," the station added.