WHEN AN AUDIENCE member asked Tipper Gore to name "the most ignored issue in newspapers," she was quick to reply.
"Probably information about what's appropriate for children at different ages," said the "second lady," who was speaking at the recent American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors convention in Atlanta.
Gore noted that there is an increasing amount of "vulgar, decadent and violent" material in the entertainment media. She said that if newspapers "took a more critical look" at TV, film and music content, it could help parents decide how much exposure their children should or should not have to this content.
"I know from formal training in child development psychology that kids process stimuli differently at different ages," the speaker stated. "A four-year-old and an eight-year-old do not see things the same way and, in some ways, our society recognizes this. For example, you can go to a store to buy a toy for a child and the packages are marked with the appropriate age range."
Gore, who worked in the mid-1980s to get warning labels placed on records with graphic lyrics, emphasized that giving people more information about entertainment content is not the same thing as censoring this material.
"I am for freedom of speech," she said.
But this First Amendment right, Gore added, "includes my freedom of speech as a mother. I am free to call it as I see it. I can say trash is trash, violence is violence, and that treating women as objects to be exploited, humiliated, raped, murdered and forgotten is degrading beyond all moral measure.
"It degrades the society that permits such degradation to persist without protest."
Earlier in her speech, Gore also talked about how difficult it is to be a journalist.
"As some of you may know, both Al and I started our careers as journalists," she said. "Al was a reporter and I was a photojournalist at the Nashville Tennessean. So both of us know your jobs are never easy. With long hours, extraordinary pressures and few obvious rewards, reporting imposes great mental and physical demands."
Gore, who was introduced by Tennessean assistant managing editor/news Catherine Mayhew, added that journalists and politicians may have more in common than either would like to admit.
"Journalists and politicians both get whipsawed by the frenzy of the latest developments, with short attention spans and fading institutional memories," she said. "In both professions, there are too few occasions to step back and take stock."
By: David Astor Tipper Gore addresses editors' conference sp.