When It’s Not Covered In The Stylebook

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While not among the famed “seven dirty words you can’t say on television,” I think most would agree that the language heard on the leaked Access Hollywood tapes certainly ranks as offensive – not something you would want your children or grandchildren to hear.

And that posed a problem for television news outlets left grappling with the difficult task of accurately reporting one of the biggest stores of the campaign while remaining on the right side of FCC regulations.

The question that they had to answer — do you air the candidate’s unedited comments or do you censor for the sake of decency?

A former television journalist and self-proclaimed news junkie, I spent much of the weekend monitoring CNN, FOX, CNBC and MSNBC to see how they were handling the unfolding situation.

CNN decided early on to air the unedited tape – warning viewers that the content was graphic and disturbing.

MSNBC and other outlets opted to bleep out the offensive language.

But all bets were off when guest commentators joined the anchors on set – some repeated the vulgar language and others talked around it. One of the most “colorful” discussions resulted in one of the guests asking another to refrain from using the vulgar language, because her young daughter was watching.

They don’t prepare you for this in J-School. It’s not covered in the stylebook.

This campaign is forcing the news media to re-write the rules… and it’s not over yet.

Stay tuned.