Bawdy parts in Wakefield, Quebec

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by admin on March 31, 2010

How much nudity is too much nudity?

This is a question we ask ourselves in the newsroom; especially after a woman in Kaz cancelled her mother’s subscription when she saw the photos of the “running of the bulls” streaking event in Wakefield, Quebec.

Lusting for a break from old reliables like municipal council meetings and fundraising events, reporters jump at the chance to cover the eyebrow-raising events. But our Kaz (former) subscriber is not alone in her (in the) raw indignation. Sometimes, the phone lines just buzz.

In the name of better customer service, our receptionist Kathy is charged with carefully recording readers’ feedback.

“There’s places to put pictures of naked people for anyone who’s perverted enough to want to look at stuff like that, and you probably know what magazines I’m talking about, and it certainly is not the Low Down to Hull and Back News!”

Or: “The Vagina Monologues! What kind of s**t is that to put in a local newspaper?”

Another: “”Yeah, I just wanted to say youse used to have a good country paper like, and now it’s just chuck full of newdy-lewdy pictures, like. It seems to have went all loosey-goosey, if you catch my drift. Is it still old Mr. Mantell who puts this crap out, or has it gone to the kids – gone to the dogs, more like. Ha ha. Well, that’d explain it I guess, this new generation.”

Ah yes, this new generation.

While the Gatineau Hills has never been described as an old-fashioned, or “conservative” place, such feedback speaks to editors of small town papers all over. How to report to the new generation, while still respecting our elders? It’s a knotty question.

I sought the advice from fellow members of an association of weekly newspaper editors, who were already engaged in a hot email debate about printing the word “penis”.

“You can look up the word “penis” in the Oxford dictionary, and there it is. Plus, if you’re publishing the word “vagina” then why should the women have all the fun?” wrote Stu from The Mountaineer.

Vern from the St Croix Courier pointed out that five years ago Canadian Press had OKed using the word “fuck” in context (quotes), so why were we still talking about penises.

Brian from the Star News shared his story about a feature on a parade horse named Midnight who was making a triumphant return after having had half of its penis removed in a complicated operation utilizing the “William’s Procedure”.  ”In the newsroom we had joking suggested that it just be shortened to Will’s procedure, and reporters suggested (lead paragraphs) about Midnight being only half the horse he used to be.”

Bob also from the Star News reminisced about a typo from his college paper days: “the paper was going to note how much Tommy Thompson changed the budget with his veto pen. Missing one space in a headline made a big change to the headline Thompson’s Pen is a sword”. To which Jeremy of England’s Congleton Chronicle lamented, “If I had a pound for every time I’d typed public and omitted the L I’d be, well, slightly better off. County council is bad as well – it’s amazing how often the ‘o’ goes missing in ‘county’.”

Amusing anecdotes from procrastinating editors aside, Jim from the West Valley View actually took a serious stab at it: “How readers react to words such as penis and vagina or photos of people’s backsides depends a lot on which generation they belong to… if newspapers want to survive for a few more years, we’d better start finding ways to appeal to younger readers, and that might mean convincing them we’re not fuddy duddies.”

Amen.