The State, a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, has apologized for its main headline on the front of its Sunday morning sports section.
The headline for the coverage of South Carolina’s 34-14 loss at Missouri was “Hilinski’s Hope Sinks.” That was in reference to South Carolina freshman QB Ryan Hilinski.
“Hilinski’s Hope” is also the name of the nonprofit organization the QB’s family started after his brother Tyler, a Washington State quarterback, took his own life after the 2017 season.
The paper made its apology in a series of tweets Sunday morning after the headline was rightfully criticized.
Our sincerest apologies to the Hilinski family today for the unfortunate headline in our print edition today. Hilinski’s Hope works to raise awareness about mental health issues, especially for student-athletes.— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
Although the connection between the headline and the foundation was unintentional, there is no excuse for such poor wording and we have reached out to the family and university to express our regrets.— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
The State also explained the process behind the headline’s creation in a later series of tweets and said the copy editor based in Charlotte was not making a reference to the nonprofit when the headline for the print edition was created.
A followup because we are getting questions about how our headlines are written: All of our local content is of course generated by staff writers based in Columbia and edited by local editors. The headlines that appear online are written by either the reporter or editor. /1— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
The print editions of our company’s newspapers in both South Carolina and North Carolina are put together by copy editors based in Charlotte. They handle duties such as trimming stories to available space, editing photo captions and rewording long headlines /2— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
into the space made available by the design of the page. In this situation, the copy editor chose to highlight in the headline the reporter’s wording in the first paragraph about the renewed hope Ryan Hilinski’s performance had brought to the team. /3— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
Again, we offer this only as an explanation for transparency’s sake. There’s still no excuse for what happened here, and we are deeply sorry. /4— The State Newspaper (@thestate) September 22, 2019
Ryan Hilinski became starter after Jake Bentley’s injury
Hilinski entered the season as the backup to four-year starter Jake Bentley. But Bentley suffered a season-ending injury in the Gamecocks’ Week 1 loss to North Carolina and Hilinski took over as the team’s starter.
Hilinski’s brother Tyler played at Washington State in 2016 and 2017 and played in eight games as a sophomore before it looked like he would take over as the team’s starter in 2018.
After he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in January 2018, his parents Kym and Mark started the “Hilinski’s Hope” nonprofit to help spread awareness and break the stigma around mental health issues for college athletes.
When Ryan enrolled at South Carolina ahead of the 2019 season, the Hilinski family moved to the state to be closer to him.
South Carolina doesn’t accept paper’s apology
Even with The State’s apology and explanation, the South Carolina football program released a statement blasting the headline as “unprofessional and irresponsible journalism.”
The program said it didn’t believe the apology was enough, and called for The State to fund and provide educational awareness to support the fight against the stigma of mental illness.
USC releases a statement regarding The State newspapers headline this morning: pic.twitter.com/Lc44FcwyPp— The Spurs Up Show (@TheSpursUpShow) September 22, 2019
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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