It’s an opportunity to make real-life editing decisions with no risk of fallout. It’s a learning opportunity, too.
Here are a few points I found particularly interesting. No, let me rephrase that, because I found the whole column particularly interesting. So I’ll just highlight a few of the questions.
Public editor Kathy English described #10 as “a tough one.” It had to do with a business profile of Heather Reisman. Most readers who completed the survey would have chosen not to publish the cited excerpts, which describe the Indigo CEO’s appearance. I probably would have omitted the reference to her “slim, lithe figure,” but I would have retained the phrase “petite frame belying the power she wields.” I’m always intrigued by contrasts and unexpected impressions – I think they make articles more interesting to read, and may help readers question their own assumptions. In this case, I believe the phrase is relevant to Reisman’s role. English asks a key question: would a male CEO’s appearance be described similarly?
#11 dealt with a column that referred to former mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug in strong and unflattering language. A resulting complaint to the Ontario Press Council was dismissed. A lot of people that I meet aren’t clear about the difference between a column and an article. Columnists – as I learned in one of the first writing courses I ever took – are “queens” of the business who write their opinions. Journalists don’t “editorialize” in their articles.
“Paddy wagon” (#6) is a term I don’t recall ever using, and I don’t think I’m likely to use it in the future. But finding it in the survey served as a reminder that the phrase might be considered offensive.
More importantly, it’s a reminder that every word counts.