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Friday, October 24, 2014

LA Times Explains Decision to Print ‘Faggot’ in Kobe Story Online, in Paper

Anyone who opened up their LA Times on Thursday or read the online version of Mike Bresnahan’s story on Kobe being caught on camera saying “f—ing f—–” may have been surprised to see the full text of Kobe’s homophobic slur published. Whereas most news organizations used the term “homophobic slur” or blurred out the word, the Times actually printed the offensive word in its story. You can see that in both the newspaper and online version:

It was quite shocking to see the word “faggot” in the newspaper as LBS contributor Gene pointed out, so we asked the Los Angeles Times what led to their decision to print the offensive word. The Times’ VP of Communications, Nancy Sullivan, explained it to us over email:

“Derogatory terms such as the one in the Kobe Bryant story are rarely printed in the paper, for obvious reasons. However, when the use of the word IS the story, as was the case with Bryant’s utterance, it is important to print it for clarity and accountability. This has happened with the other offensive terms in years past. But using such offensive words is never done lightly and, as was the case in this instance, is always cleared at the highest level of the editorial department. There needs to be a very good reason to use it, and in this case, because Bryant’s use of the term and the strong reaction to it from several different corners were the reason for the story, our judgment was to go with it.”

Juxtaposing the decision to publish the actual slur was the decision to describe Kobe’s f-bomb as a “curse word.” It was a tough call for the Times’ editorial department as you can tell, and I’m not sure if printing the offensive term helps or harms the message. Obviously we concur that when the word becomes the story it’s hard to avoid publishing it (as we did in the title), but it was no easy decision for the paper, especially because many people find the word to be offensive. If they didn’t, then Kobe’s words wouldn’t have become a story.



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