Some readers of The Sunday Oregonian were likely surprised yesterday by the paper's
use of the word "shit"
in a quote from the subject of a front-page profile.
Not that we have any objection to using "shit" or any of George Carlin's "seven dirty words"
in the paper. But we are curious whenever "shit" makes a rare appearance in the daily paper and why editors in this case gave the OK.
Yesterday's A-1 centerpiece in The O quoted the reaction of Hillsboro police officer Jesus Rios-Calderon, who fatally shot a knife-wielding man after the man told him he had killed his wife, as "I was scared from the second he told me he killed his wife -- 'Oh, shit' is the only way to say it."
The last time we found The O using this word was a June 22, 2003 story in The Sunday Oregonian
about a charter boat disaster on the Oregon Coast. In that story the boat captain remembered his reaction to a huge wave as "Oh, shit. Oh, shit."
On Sunday evening, Therese Bottomly, a managing editor at the paper, wrote
that the use of "shit" is not done lightly. Her online column reflects the skittishness, because she managed to write about the word's use while never actually using it herself, instead referring it to as a "profanity," "expletive" and "that particular expression."
Bottomly writes that using the word required the approval of Editor Peter Bhatia.
"It seemed to me an acceptable, understandable and honest reaction by the officer," according to the quote Bhatia gave Bottomly for her blog. "The Oregonian typically sets itself apart from the rampant use of slang and profanity that permeates prime-time television and reality shows, seeing its pages as a refuge where civil discourse still reigns."
Bhatia emailed WW this morning to say that he'd seen two email complaints and that "there may be more on voice mail."
We're guessing he doesn't need our advice, but if he does he should tell them to stop being shitheads.
Meantime, watch Carlin, who would have made an outstanding news editor: