Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh no, not the “S” word!

Shit. That four letter word emblazoned on a bumper sticker caused quite the debate in the newsroom the other day. It’s funny how lines are drawn in the sand and how quickly and I found my myself on the wrong side of the it.

While shooting an assignment one afternoon a call came across the scanner about a vehicle accident. The original call was for a car into a house. The next update was a car on the front yard of a house after wrecking during a street race. I headed over to check out the scene to find a VW Jetta off the street surface where it came to rest after losing control in a turn.

The neighborhood this occurred in has been plagued with speeders and unsafe drivers so I thought this was a newsworthy event. Skid marks and tire tracks from cars and motorcycles making donuts and high speed passes lined the street and intersections. And attached to the car sitting on the lawn after losing control during a speeding adventure was a bumper sticker “How’s My Driving-dial 1-800 EAT SHIT”.

How was your driving? I would say pathetic, dangerous, reckless and stupid. Luckily no one was injured and the car stopped short of the house. The car was towed by police for a 30-day-impound and the driver cited for reckless driving.

Back at the office I processed the pictures of the scene showing the car on the lawn. Visible was the black bumper sticker on the rear of the car. Let the festivities begin. I was told the word “shit” was banned from publication in the paper. So any photo that showed the word was also banned.

Forget that this 17-year-old could have killed someone or himself, forget it was a speeding accident in a neighborhood that has begged and pleaded only to have their warnings fall on deaf ears at the city, forget everything else-the word shit is on the car.

When I’m on assignment I don’t decide what I’ll shoot based on a banned word list, I shoot what is there, what tells the story best. If it gets rejected by the editors so be it. They thought about blurring the bumper sticker out in Photoshop by I balked at that. Might as well not the use the picture which is what happened. The only place this photo appeared was when it found a home on my wall of shame, photos that have been rejected for content but are still good shots in my opinion.

I was surprised, it is such a tiny bit of the picture and the word is heard on radio and television but apparently it has no place in our paper. We publish pictures of dead cows and horses on our cover but risqué bumper stickers cross the line. I learned my lesson so if the “S” word crosses my lens’ path I will give it a wide berth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

actually "shit" is one of the 7 dirty words you can't say on tv according to the old George Carlin bit.
you won't hear it on radio either,
unless you listen to satellite radio.
only on pay tv channels like TMC, HBO or Showtime will you hear the word.

Radio and tv don't use it.
I don't think you'll find it used in most newspapers either.
Not really an unexpected decision.