Thursday, September 5, 2013

Colliding Worlds

I swear it’s not my fault. Despite writing erotic romance, I try to keep a cement fence up when it comes to teaching journalism.

With nonfiction writing, it’s about the truth. It’s not fiction, and we all know what is read in romance novels doesn’t happen in an author’s real life, right? Of course not.

Anyway, this semester I’ve taken a new job – temporary, part-time adviser for a community college newspaper. In one regular feature, a reporter follows a student out to the parking lot (I know = creepy!), and writes a short article. A picture is taken of the student’s bumper and the newspaper blurs out the license plate.

The subject highlighted in the first issue? *Slaps forehead* Well, let’s say the writer found an extremely interesting woman, and she’s going to be hard to beat.

Now, a little backstory. Usually, newspaper advisers are extremely hands off. They don’t assign stories, or edit them or do the layouts. If there is a problem or a question about a story, the students consult an adviser. Since this staff is small, the position is much more interactive. Further, at the start of the year no editors had been appointed.

Here’s the paragraph that, ahem, caught my eye:

“[She] identifies herself as pansexual, or someone who is open to members of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Although she said that she is more of an ‘ass man’ than a ‘boob man.’”

Hmmm, do we want to be saying someone is an “ass man” or “boob man” in our very first issue? The journalist side says, “may be offensive.” The romance author? That’s interesting and unique = go for it!

Really, the decision should not be up to me. If I said, “remove it,” then it crosses the line to censorship. On consultation, I was told that each semester varies, depending upon the tone set by the staff. They’ve been conservative, and they’ve run the “F-word,” pictures of women in thongs and even covered a sex-ed workshop with pictures of “dildos” in the background.

At least, I suggested, let’s put those quote marks around the terms if it’s something she actually said.

See how my worlds are colliding? Isn’t it funny that was the ONE person the reporter found to interview?

So tell me, did we make the right call? Would you have let it through the press?

Until next time,

Louisa Bacio


  1. I think you made the right call. It's a fine line, isn't it. I'm sure there'll be many more interesting scenarios to come. Good luck. :)

    1. Such a fine line! And administration at some schools can be very conservative. I don't want a connection to ... what does she write, and look what they're printing! But, it's a quote!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Well, it's a college newspaper. We're talking adults here. And it's a great topic to "sell" papers, eh?

    That said, my first concern was the interviewee's privacy. Would want to be VERY sure consent was formally and legally obtained for any image and quotations. Frankly, I've been misquoted by newspapers more than once, and I'm loathe to approve anything I don't see final copy for anymore.

    And I guess I'll toss in one final note: I don't see journalism as "truth." I see journalism as -invested- in "truth" but often resting in Stephen Colbert's concept of "truthiness" -- what sells papers or keeps readers from turning away. It's not usually intentional fiction, but there are many paths to many truths and many stories go untold, making those that are told a limited and limiting portrait of the world.

    And with that I'll step off the soapbox and congratulate you on an interesting blog post!

    1. Oh we are in total agreement here, on truth vs. non-truth or fiction. I always say that there is neither true. So much fiction is based upon what we know as reality, and non-fiction is an interpretation of events. Have five people describe the same thing and what happens?

      And perhaps, this subject gave elaborate quotes on purpose, in order to get in the paper!

      Thanks for visiting Salome!