Chris Whitney-Charlotta Glass 'On Love' feature had complications and critics

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By Andrew Alexander
Ombudsman
Sunday, January 31, 2010

The road to matrimony can be rocky, and it certainly was for Chris Whitney and his new bride.

A feature story in the "On Love" section of last Sunday's Post told how the former Washington Wizards guard distanced himself from Charlotta Glass after she became pregnant by him in 2002. For years after his son was born, Whitney had no contact with mother or child. But in 2008, retired from the NBA, he rekindled his romance with Glass and they married this past New Year's Day. The son, now 7, was his best man.

For some readers, it was an inspiring story about a couple who made mistakes, matured and found true love. But for many others, it was about out-of-wedlock children, unprotected sex and racial stereotyping (Whitney and Glass are African American).

Critics focused on two sentences that described the period when the couple lived separate lives after their son's birth: "Whitney went on to have three more sons with other women. Glass adopted a teenage boy whose parents passed away and had another son of her own."

Online comments from readers blasted the couple and The Post. Some were so harsh that Post monitors removed them from the Web site. Glass even felt compelled to join the online debate and defend her marriage.

"The Post should not glorify this type of irresponsible behavior," wrote one reader.

Said another: "These stories are supposed to be inspirational and hopeful. This story is disturbing and disgusting. It reads like black stereotypical pathology: Young black man has unprotected sex and fathers illegitimate children with several women. Young black woman also has unprotected sex with at least 2 men and has children out of wedlock."

In The Post's newsroom, three African American editors raised concerns with superiors after the story appeared.

Local editor Monica Norton told me she wondered about how couples were selected for "On Love" and said the story was "lacking in context and explanation."

Vanessa Williams, an editor on the Universal Desk, questioned whether the story fit the "On Love" format.

"There were just too many complications, too many troubling questions," she said. "Kids out of wedlock, unprotected sex, abandonment. The story was jarring in that space" and might have been better as a feature of greater length elsewhere in the paper.

Style section deputy editor Sydney Trent was concerned that it "seemed not in the right context." She noted that "On Love" features often deal with struggles in relationships," but they are "ultimately heartwarming. I did not get a heartwarming feel from this story because he had . . . sons by different women and she had two kids with different fathers. What they do is their business, but it is a social problem."


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