Media Not Ready to Ban All Offensive Slurs

Journal-isms: The New York Post's n-word reference inspired a survey of several news outlets' policies on slurs.


NABJ Leaders Urge N.Y. Post Never to Use “That Vile Word”

The New York Post’s use of abbreviations for racial and misogynistic epithets commonly used by many rappers prompted leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists Saturday to call for “that vile word” (the racial one) never to appear in the Post again. But a survey of media outlets finds that news organizations are reluctant to ban any word in all circumstances.

The column in question was by sportswriter Phil Mushnick, who continued a crusade against the language used by rapper Jay-Z by linking it to his part-ownership in the new Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise, formerly the New Jersey Nets.

As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new ‘urban’ home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?,” Mushnick wrote.

“Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!”

In a news release, NABJ leaders denounced the column. “The language used in today’s New York Post column, titled ‘‘Nets on Jay-Z track’ [in a subhead], was disgusting and completely out of line,” New York Association of Black Journalists President Michael J. Feeney said in the statement. “Columnist Phil Mushnick and the editors who allowed his offensive language to be published should be ashamed of themselves. We demand an explanation and an apology from Mushnick and Post management, and we want to be assured this vile word will never appear in this publication again.”

NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. added by email for Journal-isms, “Any racial language should be treated in the same manner. It seems as if language referring to African Americans is loosely used more in publications or broadcast than any other group’s discriminatory terms.”

Asked whether her organization had promulgated a policy on such issues, Anna Lopez Buck, interim executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said by email, “NAHJ came out with a style book a few years back to help media organizations with various terms that could be insensitive. We have no tolerance for insensitive references by media organizations.”

Black journalists are of no single mind and have sometimes urged that the epithet in question be published or aired. In 2007, the black-owned Chicago Defender, then edited by Roland S. Martin, now a CNN contributor, ran this front-page headline: “TAKE A STAND. Black America, isn’t it about time we made up our mind about the word nigger?