The managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has issued a profuse apology to Sarah Palin for a caption on a photograph of the former governor speaking in Hong Kong earlier this week. And well he should; the caption read, “A broad in Asia,” and the space was no accident. Rod Boyce, who has sharply criticized Palin in the past, sounds sincerely embarrassed about the actions of his staff:

The Daily News-Miner has had its agreements and disagreements with now-former Gov. Sarah Palin at various points during her time serving the state of Alaska. We have tried to maintain respect for the office of governor and to be generally civil when discussing Mrs. Palin, her policies and the actions she took while serving as governor. The same has been true for the time since she left office.

Today I must apologize to Mrs. Palin personally and on behalf of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for the choice of words used on the bottom of Wednesday’s front page regarding her speaking engagement in Hong Kong this week to a group of global investors.

We used offensive language — “A broad in Asia” — above a small photograph of the former governor to direct readers inside the newspaper to a full story of her Hong Kong appearance.

There can be no argument that our use of the word “broad” is anything but offensive. To use this word to describe someone of the stature of the former governor — who is also the former vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party — only adds to the anger that many people appropriately feel.

Not only is the term offensive, it was also used gratuitously, as a joke. Had the caption used “Abroad,” there would have been no reason to apologize, but clearly someone in Boyce’s newsroom wanted to take a cheap potshot at Palin. The fact that the caption made it to print seems to indicate that the hostility to Palin was not limited to just one person, either. Newspapers like to brag about having “layers” of fact checkers and editors, and Boyce — while sounding almost abjectly sincere — fails to explain how that survived the quality control process.

Boyce notes that the word is unequivocally offensive, especially in this gratuitous context. Joe Gandelman, who worked in newspapers for decades, questions how anyone could have thought to allow it in the paper in this day and age, and makes the same point about the blame falling on more than one person:

The Daily News-Miner in Alaska has apologized to former Gov. Sarah Palin for a headline that would have been considered sexist and unacceptable 20 years ago, let alone in the early 21st century …

“A broad in Asia” is a headline that I can’t imagine anyone on the desk at the two daily newspapers for which I worked — (then) Knight Ridder’s Wichita Eagle (before it merged with the evening Beacon) and (then) Copley Press’ San Diego Union (before it merged with the evening Tribune) writing…let alone getting in the newspaper. It would have been nixed before it ever got to print and the headline writer would have been in hot water, indeed.

Boyce did a good job of apologizing, but an explanation of how editors signed off on the caption is also in order — and someone should be out looking for a new job.

In fact, that particular term went out of fashion even earlier than 20 years ago. When I read this story, I immediately recalled a particularly good exchange between the late, great Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews from the 1979 movie 10 about the word. 10 got a lot of hype over its nudity and the performance of Bo Derek, but it was actually an excellent and intelligent comedy about sexual politics, midlife crises, and the empty Don Juan complex that Moore’s character struggled to abandon. This YouTube clip has the entire scene, which is one of the best in the movie (Note: Not safe for work, with brief nudity and some strong language):