Bleacher Bits: Crossing the lines of good taste
I did a double-take when I saw the headline, and not just your ordinary double-take, but one of those you see in cartoons when the person's eyes bug completely out of their head and their mouth literally drops to the ground.
The Jan. 19 edition of The Sacramento Valley Mirror ran a headline with its sports wrap that dealt with a freshman girls basketball game between the Orland Trojans and Sutter Huskies.
The headline read, "Orland frosh kennel Husky bitches."
Yes, you read that correctly, as I re-printed it as it appeared.
I have many times admitted that I am not an English major, but yes, capitalizing "husky" makes it refer to the team's name. Likewise, "bitch" is a term used to refer to a female dog.
But unless I'm mistaken, the rest of the story never once mentioned any type of dog show - the only kind of story in which the use of the word would be appropriate.
It is NEVER appropriate to use when talking about a group of female high school athletes.
As writers, we often try to be "clever" with our word usage to inject a little humor into a headline or the body of the story. But there are lines journalists don't cross - the line between cleverness and crudeness - and the Valley Mirror headline not only crosses it, but turns around to spit on it.
Of course, there is no way of knowing who exactly wrote it.
I can tell you that no such headline will ever appear in the sports section of any of the Tri-County Newspapers.
Firstly, all the sports reporters have a conscience and know better.
Secondly, as the sports editor, if any reporter submitted that headline to me they would be in my office quicker than you can turn a page in a dictionary.
Also, if I chose to use a headline like the Valley Mirror's, I would expect to be summoned to my editor's office for disciplinary action.
As a father of a daughter, let's just say that if anyone ever referred to her as a "Husky bitch," the end result would probably be uglier than the headline itself.
The First Amendment is great, but it should not be used by reporters as carte blanche to write whatever we damn well please. Words can hurt and should always be used wisely, and not just to flex what we might think is our superior command of the language or to try to be clever.
Tri-County Newspapers sports reporters will continue covering games and writing stories the way they should be written.
We will continue focusing attention on the names of the athletes who make them exciting, and not try to refocus the spotlight on ourselves.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or email@example.com.