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VAYA’s response to UT’s insensitive pun on Pho

VAYA’s response to UT’s insensitive pun on Pho

December 8, 2011

Tom Mallory
Web Editor
San Diego Union-Tribune
350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, CA 92108

RE: Offensive pun on phở in your headline.

Dear Mr. Malllory:

Words cannot express how disappointed we are in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s blog post titled “Pho-King Amazing: Harbor Town Pub” by Michelle Guerin dated Dec. 7 on and

Laying aside the problematic fact that a restaurant owner would choose to name a sandwich “Pho-King,” it is disappointing to see that an award-winning newspaper in the second largest metropolitan area in California with a large Vietnamese population would choose to do same in its headline.

The headline pokes fun at our language, a language that is spoken by more than one million people in the United States, making it the seventh most spoken language and the fifth in California. Using it in your headline is just plain crude and insensitive.

Furthermore, as a media sponsor to VAYA’s annual Tết Festival in Balboa Park, we expect the Union-Tribune to be more sensitive to the needs and concerns of our community. With more than 40,000 Vietnamese residents living in San Diego County and hundreds of phở restaurants in city, we expect more of the Union-Tribune than this.

Thank you for your attention to the issue.

Alexander Nguyen

Update: U-T Editor responded with an apology.

Dear Mr. Nguyen –

You’re right. That was an inappropriate headline for our site, and I apologize for any upset and offense it caused.
The editor involved also offers her apologies, and I know she feels terrible she gave offense.

In this case, it is the name of a sandwich at the restaurant. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for our publication.

My editor changed that headline as soon as we noticed it but, because it was on an inside page, it wasn’t pulled down as quickly as I would like

In reviewing it again today, I thought it better to take the name of the sandwich out of the story.

Again, please accept our apologies for any offense. We strive to cover all cultures and communities with respect and that headline fell short of our standards.

Also, thanks for your message, which gave me this chance to respond.


Tom Mallory

Homepage editor

The San Diego Union-Tribune