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Knightly: Why the Disney apology matters

The people of Pahrump received an apology from Disney. From what I’m being told, that is no small feat.

Our lead story in last Wednesday’s newspaper, “Disney show hurls negative comments toward Pahrump” and the Friday brief that the entertainment company issued an apology quickly became a national story. All made possible by a Snapchat post by local teenager Danyelle Ormiston from the show, “Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything,” which had some less than flattering comments about Pahrump.

In fact, they were downright mean.

When I asked reporter Mick Akers to do an article, I thought it was an interesting story about how Disney, who works with anti-bullying campaigns around the country, had a show calling Pahrump’s kids “filthy,” the town a “dump” that causes a fictitious “Pahrump lump.” A main character later return from a visit with a large growth on his neck.

This from the company whose Disney Citizenship arm encourages children to “be inspired” with a social media campaign, #ChooseKindness.

“Choose kindness and let the world see who you are,” the company states in a recent public service announcement. “And together we can stop bullying.”

Disney’s first statement to Akers June 8 was, “We never intentionally seek to upset people and regret that some residents of Pahrump took offense to the jokes and the storyline, which was embellished for comedic effect.”

Comedic effect?

Pahrump is not the first town to be made fun of (I won’t call what Disney did satire). I’m sure the Albuquerque, New Mexico Chamber of Commerce isn’t touting the way the area was portrayed in “Breaking Bad,” or the fact that Reno probably wasn’t thrilled with the way it was portrayed in “Reno 911.”

But this, to me, was different because the show is aimed at kids with a negative comment about the kids in town.

And it was a local kid, Ormiston, who unwittingly brought it to everyone’s attention by posting it on her Facebook page June 1.

The next morning, a co-worker showed me the clip and I knew we would have to do a story for the reasons I’ve stated above.

The article came out the following Wednesday, and quickly became one the most trafficked articles on our website since a former basketball player was found on the brothel floor.

By Thursday afternoon, the Las Vegas Review-Journal posted the story on their website, and Fox 5 news was in town getting reactions from residents.

Around 4 p.m., Disney issued an apology, stating they had removed the Pahrump references from future showings.

The story the Times posted Thursday night about the apology became a bigger story than the initial article, going worldwide when it was picked up by the Associated Press.

Some of the comments we received from readers were of the “this is ridiculous” or stop being “sissies” variety, and that towns get mocked all the time on television.

But this was Disney, the standard-bearer of entertainment for children, anti-bullying campaigns and they need to be held to a higher standard.

And in the end, Disney should be commended for doing the right thing and apologizing.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

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