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To Ban or Not to Ban? A Lesson Taken From J-101 Class

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I'm ambivalent; right smack in the middle of to ban or not to ban certain words from Op-Ed News. If I were a volunteer editor...I don't know, but I might have been the lone negative vote.

Rob's arguments for the ban were cogent and anguished over; it wasn't something he did lightly with a lah-dee-dah attitude. In his words, he worried over it "for at least a year."

As the owner, publish, editor of Op-ed News and man of many hats, all he was asking was that instead of writers using what he considers "hate-evoking words," they use their imaginations and expand on their ideas, by writing entire sentences, rather than take the lazy way out and throwing them into a catchword.

The entire discussion reminded me of one of the first writing assignments we had in my Journalism-101 class. We had to write a news story without using one adjective.

The purpose was two fold:

One, to get us used to the idea that we were writing news stories, and two, adjectives are opinion. Opinion mixed in narrative news is a huge no-no.


Well, it was then. Now the lines between the two have become muddied and blurred, and I long for that kind of ethical reporting.

The exercise in adjective-exclusion, also got us to think outside the box. It wasn't easy to lock up the adjectives, but trust me, it's quite do-able.

Keeping opinion out of writing doesn't apply here, that's what we do; we're up front about it, but that doesn't mean we're excused from thinking outside the box of catchphrases and catchwords.

Would there have been so much discussion if Rob -- instead of saying "banned" words -- had said "editorial discretion" or "editorial judgement?"

Be honest. Everyone who writes here or elsewhere, self-edits. I do it all the time. I never write the word "f*ck" out loud to glare in the reader's face.

I say "effing;" "freakin';" "fooking," a la a cockney accent; "fricking;" and rarely the "F" word. And, I would never even think of using the also banned "N" word.

Hell, I even hesitate to use the adjective "niggardly" -- an absolutely legitimate word dating back to Middle English -- for fear that it and/or I will be misunderstood.

All of that is self-editing.

Rob's point is that "Zionism," "Zionist," "Islamicism," and "Islamicist" are "too often used too loosely as a veiled way to express racist, hate messages."

(If you have a racist, hate-filled message, there are plenty of right wing sites out there for you, including Bill O'Reilly's.)

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Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a (more...)
 

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...to write a story without adjectives. On the sur... by Pappy on Sunday, Sep 2, 2007 at 2:24:18 AM
I, too, took a preliminary course in journalism, b... by Mary Pitt on Sunday, Sep 2, 2007 at 7:13:40 AM
Rob is perfectly within his rights as the main man... by Debbie Scally on Sunday, Sep 2, 2007 at 10:46:32 AM