Columbia Journalism Review hears from readers upset about the F-word on the cover

The first three letters-to-the-editor in the Nov./Dec. issue of Columbia Journalism Review criticize the magazine for printing “Not Fucking Rocket Science”cjrcover on its Sept./Oct. “Journalism Is” cover.

* “I’m sure there are instances where I would agree the use of the word is warranted,” writes VanZandt Newspapers managing editor Donnita Nesbit Fisher. The cover of a magazine describing journalism isn’t one of them.”

* “Could we keep the profanity off the cover?” asks Hugh Bouchelle.

* “How dare CJR include the F-bomb on its cover!” writes RAR president and former WGN-TV anchor Rick Rosenthal. “The F-bomb has no place anywhere in CJR! Putting it on the magazine cover was outrageously offensive!”

I wondered how many more complaints CJR received, and if anyone praised the magazine for its “daring move.” Interim editor Brent Cunningham answered my questions in an email:

I think the ones we ran in the Letters section are mostly all we heard from. There probably were a couple of others, but not many. I know I went back and forth (collegially: we agreed to disagree) with two or three of email writers, and we didn’t publish those.

As far as support, we got a lot of compliments on the cover itself, but no one praised the use of the f-word specifically that I’m aware of. We discussed using asterisks, but I felt that word was in context and not gratuitous, which is my standard on this sort of thing. It came from Ira Glass’s response to the What Is Journalism For? question. We checked with our newsstand distributor who cautioned that some places might not put it out with this on it, but, I mean, we are on so few newsstands anyway.

I knew it would anger some folks, but I think the negative reaction was considerably less than I was prepared for.