The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The thought police of a free press?

Following the jailing of Judith Miller, there's been a babel of bleating from press panjandrums on the chilling effect on sources and rags alike.

An example happily comes our way (Romenesko's way, to be exact) which gives an insight into the thinking of at least one newspaper's management on freedom of speech.

At the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune [1], an editor emailed staff with a direction:
Refrain from using race to describe or identify people in crime stories, for example, 'a black man in a green jacket and baseball cap.'

One or two journos had the gall to challenge this edict (also by email) - and got themselves suspended for their pains.

Now, the golden rule of employee emails is: never write anything you wouldn't be happy to have read out in court. But the extracts in the piece don't seem so bad - no naughty words or personal attacks.

Apparently, the witchhunt was triggered by a complaint from an editor at another paper in the group (corporate politics as well as PC raising its ugly head?) that one email was
disgusting and offensive.

Freedom of speech only has value for stuff that offends someone. And I'm thinking this guy's tolerance threshold is pretty low.

Leading to an piece of defensive management.

Don't do as we do, do as we say would seem to be the media motto, if this example is typical.

Is it? A case for some actual journalism, I think.

  1. That's Lawrence, MA.

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