Views of the News: What the #$%^?

Apr 1, 2014

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When is it appropriate for a journalist to change a word in a direct quote?  Is it okay to edit for clarity? Or when someone uses profanity?  What defines profanity today?

On Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed from Jesse Sheidlower.  The author of The F-Word criticized the paper for its strict policies against publishing profanity.  Sheidlower argues that society's comfort level with offensive language and content has shifted dramatically over the past few decades, but the media's stance on it hasn't.  He said that when newspapers hide behind odd phrasing they hurt the audience, that taking great pains to avoid saying something dirty only draws more attention to it.

Jesse Sheidlower, New York Times: “The case for profanity in print

Wall Street Journal: “The law on ‘ass’

Kristin Hare, Poynter: “On profanity: As language evolves, should the media?

Eric Levenson, The Wire: “How to get curse words into America’s greatest newspapers

Margaret Sullivan, New York Times: “Does the Times have its act together on vulgar language?

Where is that language line?

The Washington Post spiked Sunday's Pearls Before Swine comic strip because of a word used in one of the frames.  This week's installment was about changes in language over time.  Editors at The Post thought some of the examples demonstrated political correctness while one was clearly a slur.

Michael Cavna, Washington Post: “Pearls before ‘nein’: Stephan Pastis finds irony in Post nixing strip about word choice

Jim Romenesko: “Washington Post passes on Sunday’s ‘Pearls Before Swine’ because of ‘midget’ reference

#CancelColbert: Taken out of context?

Last Wednesday night, Stephen Colbert did a segment on his Comedy Central program, The Colbert Report, on the new charity established by the owner of the Washington Redskins.  Colbert mocked Dan Snyder's new Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, saying he was starting his own charity.  The "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever" was meant to belittle Snyder's attempt at reconciliation with the Native American community over the name of his NFL franchise. 

A tweet (shown above) sent from the show's official account -- without any context as to what was expressed during the segment -- drew the ire of many.

Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times: “Stephen Colbert responds to Twitter controversy, deletes show account

Brett Logiurato, Business Insider: “Stephen Colbert on ‘Cancel Colbert’"

Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker: “The campaign to ‘cancel’ Colbert

Katie McDonough, Salon: “#CancelColbert turns ugly: Why does it make white people so angry to talk about race?


Who’s the fool?

April 1 -- April Fools' Day -- is one of the most feared in the news business.  Journalists are all on edge hoping not to fall victim to an April Fools' joke, be it a source duping them on a fake story or a unscrupulous colleague just looking to get a laugh.

Stuart Elliott, New York Times: “Beware the April Fools’ jokes coming from Madison Avenue

Catherine Taibi, Huffington Post: “’Today’ Show awkward April Fools’ prank goes horribly wrong

Kristin Hare, Poynter: “TV station pulls out the green body suit for April Fools’

State of the News Media

The Pew Research Center has released the 2014 State of the News Media report.  What's in there that's giving journalists reason to be upbeat about our industry? A lot.

Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project: “State of the News Media 2014

Paul Fahri, Washington Post: “Charting the years-long decline of local news reporting

Taco Bell takes on McDonald's

Not since the days of Taco Bell's "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" commercials has an ad campaign for the fast food chain generated this much buzz.  This week Taco Bell began running these ads promoting its new breakfast menu -- and trying to chip away at McDonald's stronghold on the morning market.

Maureen Morrison, Ad Age: “Taco Bell enlists army of Ronald McDonalds for breakfast ads

Ron Dicker, Huffington Post: “McDonald’s hits back at Taco Bell in escalating breakfast war

Ken Wheaton, Ad Age: “Taco Bell’s recycled gag likely to make a mark

Alfred Maskeroni, AdWeek: “Jack in the Box punked McDonalds’ with a real Ronald long before Taco Bell did