Press Council Upholds F-Word p. 18

By: Editorial Staff RULING ON A reader's complaint about the Sudbury, Ontario, Northern Life's publication of an obscenity, the Ontario Press Council refused to wash out the paper's mouth with soap.
"Newspapers should avoid larding stories with casual obscenities, but there may be occasions in which a vulgar expression is justified," the council said in a March 19 decision dismissing the complaint.
At issue was an Oct. 6, 1996 article about a claim by a former police constable that she was harassed on the job by a sergeant in 1991.
According to the story, the sergeant told the woman: "The only fucking reason you're here [in Crime Prevention] is because you're a fucking female."
In addition, the story quoted the constable as saying the sergeant often said, after finishing telephone conversations with women, "Should never have given them the fucking vote."
Those quotes were out of line for a family paper, Sudbury resident Sherri-Lynn Gregory complained to the Press Council.
"There is enough obscenity in our lives today without it showing up in the newspaper. The use of this word reduces your paper in stature to something less than the National Enquirer. . . . If this is allowed to go unchecked, who knows how much smut will be eventually printed?" Gregory wrote.
In its defense, the paper said using the word was important to get across the full impact of the sergeant's alleged remarks. After the alleged harassment, the female constable went on long-term disability.The paper also said this was the first ? and probably last ? time the word would appear in the three-time-a-week paper.
Northern Life published Gregory's letter and a response from its managing editor. The paper received two letters and a handful of phone calls, it said, mostly from readers worried that children might read the words, which were printed on the Page 3 jump of the front-page story.
In dismissing the complaint, the council, a voluntary organization of journalists and public representatives that deals with complaints of newspaper coverage, recalled that in 1991 it issued an adjudication that concluded "because community standards vary, the issue of taste in language is one for each newspaper to judge."


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here