The fine art of editing

Updated

Way back in June 2008, the American Family Association, a prominent group in the religious right movement, had an interesting publishing policy. The AFA operated a website called OneNewsNow that featured various news stories from around the world, but the group liked to edit the content to be more in line with the AFA’s worldview.

As part of this, the American Family Association liked to edit the word “gay” out of articles, replacing it with the word “homosexual.” I’ve never fully understood why – I guess the AFA thinks “homosexual” sounds worse – but in June 2008 it caused the group some trouble.

A sprinter named Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, and the AFA ran an item on this in its sports section. But in keeping with the publishing policy, the AFA couldn’t run Tyson Gay’s name as-is – even though that is his real name – so it ran a headline that read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” The article told readers, “Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal…. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: ‘A little fatigued.’”

Fox News’ find-and-replace editing isn’t quite as hilarious, but it’s close.

Fox News is trying to downplay the effects of the Republican-led government shutdown by replacing “shutdown” with “slimdown” in Associated Press reports posted on FoxNews.com. The changes have appeared in headlines, a photo caption, and story ledes.

FoxNews.com even replaced “shutdown” with “slimdown” when promoting an original FoxNews.com article that took issue with Fox’s use of “slimdown.” Fox News host Howard Kurtz wrote in a column that the “Fox News website keeps using the term ‘slimdown’ instead of shutdown, though no one would claim this was some kind of sensible Weight Watchers method of trimming government spending.” Kurtz’s column has the headline, “Spin Wars: Is the shutdown about blackmail or ObamaCare?” – but Fox modified the headline to “KURTZ: Is slimdown about blackmail or ObamaCare?” on its front page.

Just as the AFA didn’t want its reader to see the word “gay,” even when it was someone’s proper last name, Fox News doesn’t want its audience to confront the word “shutdown.” The network’s pollsters must have told Fox executives that focus groups didn’t care for the word.

I hate to break it to Fox News, but some things can’t be rebranded. For that matter, I have a hunch even the most loyal members of the Fox News audience will be confronted with the word “shutdown” this week, the network’s efforts notwithstanding.

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The fine art of editing

Updated