Hate Speech Is Offensive Too: Some Thoughts And Guidance

We worry about references to bodily parts and bodily functions. We obsess about which of the various uses of the word “ass” have to be bleeped. We wonder why “effing” is OK but the F-word isn’t. We give our audience warnings before they hear such words, as well as many others.

Then, sometimes without much discussion beforehand, we in the media print or broadcast comments from those who engage in what most people would agree is hate speech.

We do not want to sanitize such comments or shield the audience from them if they are important to our stories. We do, though, want to give the question of whether to include hate speech in our reports the same sort of careful thought that we give to other forms of offensive language. The framing, for instance, has to be correct. Is a warning or other type of heads up needed? Is the audience owed an acknowledgement that what they heard is highly offensive? How should the speaker be challenged about what was just said?

The point is simple. Our position is that as a responsible broadcaster, NPR sets “a high bar on use of language that may be offensive to our audience.” If we’re going to be concerned about a mild oath or a scatological reference, we should be equally or more concerned about hate speech.

Talk with senior editors about such material and how it will be handled. The DMEs and/or Standards & Practices editor should be consulted as far as possible before broadcast or publication.

(“Memmos;” June 20, 2017)

June 20, 2017

Comments are closed.