Journalists Fret over the 'Other F-Word'

No, the word isn't "fair," although journalists do have a problem with the word. It's "fag," used by Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune:

After hearing Ozzie Guillen ravage Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti before Tuesday night's White Sox game, a few writers pondered their next move.

"There was much discussion in the press box," Daily Southtown columnist Phil Arvia said. "What do we do now?"...

And what was the proper way to handle the quotes? As Arvia noted in his column the next day, Guillen used 14 variations of the f-word, five synonymous for excrement and had a few orders for Mariotti to "kiss my . . . "

Of course, all those profane words pale in comparison to the worst epithet of all.

Tiptoeing through that would be tricky enough. The real question was how to address Guillen's use of the three-letter slang word commonly viewed as a homosexual slur.

Or "the other f-word," as Arvia called it.

Different media outlets struggled with it.

USA Today used it in a news story that ran Thursday. The Sun-Times also played it straight, using it prominently in three stories that appeared Thursday.

The word has appeared only once in the Tribune, and that was in a quote by Kevin Boyer, a spokesman for the Gay Games.

Arvia got the message across to readers by calling the word "a three-letter reference either to Mariotti's sexuality or British slang for a cigarette."

The electronic media also has had different strategies.

On ESPN News, the word was shown on a graphic. But in reading the quote, anchor J.W. Stewart substituted "blank."

Dan Jiggetts uttered the word at the beginning of Wednesday's "Chicago Tribune Live" on Comcast SportsNet. News director Joe Riley said station officials decided the word should be used once to inform viewers who hadn't read that day's newspaper reports.

"We put the kibosh on it after that," he said.

Have liberals finally found a word worthy of an FCC ban?

On WSCR-AM 670, anchor updates referred to it as a "homosexual slur" in news reports, but some talk-show hosts used the word, which the FCC hasn't banned.

WMVP-AM 1000 general manager Jim Pastor said he tried to steer his on-air talent away from using it.

"Even though it became part of the news story, it's still a politically insensitive word that offends people," he said.

Sexuality Journalistic Issues