Thursday, February 10, 2005

Studs yes, babes no, Rummie never, and there is no Gee -- editorial propriety at the NY Times.

The only known Brookings fellow to write a column on NFL football reports...

On Sunday, yours truly contributed this article about the Super Bowl to the august New York Times. (That’s the august paper, not an August edition.) But the article did not run in the sports pages, it ran in the Week in Review, the section of analytical articles about solemn subjects, slipped among somber think-pieces on Social Security restructuring and Japan-China relations. I am now officially a football intellectual! But then, it's not like there is competition.

Cultural note: Editors told me I could not say "cheer-babes" in the august New York Times. "Cheer-studs," on the other hand, was acceptable...

Which brought to mind how, not so long ago, the amusing trials and tribulations of getting an op-ed piece past the Times' editors were related in this tale told by Boris Johnson, himself editor of Britain's Spectator.

... So I began the piece with the words, "Gee, thanks, guys," and Tobin wanted those words removed. For the life of me, I couldn't see why.

All right, it was a bit colloquial, but the idea was to try to be snappy, and to draw the reader in: the New York Times might be grand; she might be a crinolined beldame of political correctness, but surely she could tolerate a little slang. At last, Tobin revealed the true concerns of his multitudinous line-editors and page-editors.

"OK, Boris, I'll tell you what the problem is. Our problem is that 'Gee' is an abbreviation for Jesus..."
Well, it seems those editorial standards are a little different from whatever ones apply to the Times' in-house op-eders. Imagine if Maureen Dowd had to get each of her columns past such propriety police. Does anyone think she would be barred from writing "Gee", or even "babes", if she wanted?

And Krugman puts "Satan" and "Republicans" in the same sentence all the time...