Greenville News editor: ‘I’m shocked and saddened’

I spoke briefly with Greenville News executive editor John Pittman about the f-word appearing in his newspaper today. “I’m shocked and saddened by it,” he said. “I’m personally calling everyone who complained.” He said 18 people have called so far. (I talked to him at about 12:40 p.m. ET.) I asked him if the Gannett copy desk in Louisville was to blame, but he wouldn’t comment. “We’re the ones who published it. We’ll let other people speculate what happened and how.” Pittman said there’s an investigation to find out who’s responsible.



  1. Greg said:

    it’s a profanity. Are people seriously that upset about something like this? The way with which Americans dispense their puritanical “roots” is pretty absurd.

  2. Pete said:

    Why no link to the story itself, so we can see context?

  3. David said:

    Greg, should we never draw a line at anything? Or just let every profane thing out there be our norm?

  4. David said:

    Pete, the story was only in the print edition. (With the profane word).

  5. Heather said:

    Seriously. People need to get a grip and find more important things to get upset about.

  6. David said:

    Getting upset is not going to help Heather. An F word here or there is not going to hurt anyone, right? Heck, everyone is doing it now days.

  7. Again, it’s flat-out silly to say this doesn’t really matter or that no one should be upset. Non-solution.

    This will be only the first of many problems that will surface from these design hubs. Many of the people hired for these hubs have never supervised the production of even one newspaper, and now they are trying to produce many at once. It would be a tough task even for qualified people, and I doubt there are too many of those at these hubs.

  8. Chris Thomas said:

    So, in other words, some underpaid copy editor (do they still exist?) or composing room tech (do they still exist?) probably will lose their job over this. And in this economy, they are likely headed into economic ruin. Meanwhile, the Gannett suits who continue to decimate the editing process will collect their next hefty quarterly bonus for keeping costs down.

    Cure the disease, not the symptom.

  9. Lupe Fassett said:

    Sorry but not everyone is doing it rasied 4 children and told them we don’t do what everyone else does. We do not use that word in my house ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can use so many other words Thank you

  10. Lois Lane said:

    Probably intentional.

  11. Randy said:

    I saw a picture of the article on facebook but not the actual paper

  12. Wassermd said:

    Ever notice how the NFL and the networks mics up just about everbody on the sideline except the animal mascots. Ever notice how network TV has responded to cable by ignoring many of their own censorship rules. “Alternative” weeklies don’t have problems with most profanity.

    This was an error and there is no need to be shocked or saddened. This newspaper should save the time of an internal “investigation” and put those resources into real investigative reporting.

    The real crime is living in a fantasy world that limits the use of common, everday language in what is otherwise a rather profane world.

  13. Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor said:

    I hardly think an “internal investigation” would take more than five minutes in this day of track changes function. Just guessing here, but I bet someone put a comment in notes mode that the computer somehow overlooked and printed. Just the location of the word indicates that.

  14. Jennifer: It wouldn’t. But some people try to use that argument anyway, for many types of problems. It’s a branch of the avoidance technique.

    Live mics picking up profanity are basically a non-argument, too.

  15. Luke said:

    Seems to not be a problem in the comments so far, but the former consolidated editing center editor in me (at MG, not Gannett) thinks it needs to be said anyway: Don’t trash the copy editors in a consolidated newsroom. Trash consolidation itself. A lot of the folks taking these jobs don’t get paid enough — especially at Media General — to have to fall on the sword for something like this, no matter how bad you find it.

  16. Luke: Good point. But today, not everyone who claims to be a copy editor is a copy editor.

    The worst of the bunch are the designers who have a copy editor title, but only when it suits them. When something like this happens, they’ll say “The copy editor should have caught that.”

    (Actually, the worst of the bunch are people who lump functions like editing under “the word side of visual journalism.” But that’s another discussion.)

    Make no mistake: There are people who treat these hub jobs as an even bigger chance to spend the day studying the SND manual and to have a “positive influence” over even more newspapers.

  17. Wassermd said:

    When an expletive is intentionally added to the content, it is not really about centralized page production as vented in the recent comments. There have been more than a few problems with local copy desks as well.

    This “problem” of expletives or any forbidden words is preventable.

    First, Notes mode is not likely the issue in this case. Notes do not output on the page. That is the case with CCI and every other editorial system. If notes did output or even appeared in the archive, it would be consistent for all stories and captions unless there was only one note in the entire publication and it happened to be an expletive in a single story for one day. Fat chance of that happening.

    The second area is workflow and the use of either mandatory requirements to pass a workflow status such as spellcheck of the page with a forbidden words dictionary enabled to flag expletives or the publishing group investing in a utility such as Tansa (note: I don’t work for them). I am not pushing Tansa rather the functional equivalent of spelling/grammar/local dictionary execution on stories on a page prior to output given the lack of sufficient copy desk resources. But if you are using a workflow or a tool like Tansa, then this is a personnel issue and not a operations problem.

    Third is the operational issue of who owns the editorial page content prior to final output. If the local paper does not have this ownership, then you should and since it is easy enough to even soft proof the page before final output and read what will be in your paper. And if you do own the page content at output, then the problem exists in your operation and not at the page building facility.

    I have been working with editorial systems for a number of years and view the “production center” model of a centralized copy desk as a modern day composing room. You are throwing the content over the wall and that is the end of it according to the comments above. But even back in the composing room era, editorial was there and still in charge of its content until typeset.