How to Use Hate Speech Like a Professional

I didn’t always curse like a sailor. In fact, at one time, hearing curse words could make me physically recoil. I was much more sensitive to those words then, and though I personally am not so sensitive to them anymore, I understand and respect that fact that other people around me are. While I can justify curse words, I cannot and will not justify hate speech. We may have a freedom to speak, but we do not have that same freedom to be hateful and small minded. These issues are reflected in the media as reporters struggle with how much truth they share when hate speech is involved. I believe that hate speech in the media is affecting our culture and that, as much as the truth is important, actively working to not expose people to hate speech is more important.

I can’t even imagine using a racial slur on the news. It does not belong in a direct quote, an indirect quote or any image of any kind. According to Adam Hochberg of the Poynter Institute, CNN’s Susan Candiotti disagrees. In the article, Hochberg said Candiotti said a curse word and a racial slur on the air with minimal warning to the audience. While Candiotti was reading a Facebook post and not using her own words, I still believe she was in the wrong. There are several issues with what she did. First, she exposed her entire audience, children included, to devastating and vulgar language for almost no reason. “Candiotti’s story also aired just a day after CNN broadcast a discussion about the appropriateness of journalists repeating the word. Host Don Lemon supported its on-air use and complained that euphemisms like “the N-word” sanitize its vulgarity” and make the truth of the statement less poignant (Hochberg). While I agree that it is more “sanitary” not to curse at your audience, I also believe the truth is still there for those who need it. If you do not know what an “f—n—“ is, then you most certainly do not need to learn it from the news.

There is most definitely a faction of reporters who would use those words only for shock value. Others would argue that they are presenting their audience with the “truth” in a very all-or-nothing way. No matter what the justification seems to be for doing that, I believe it is unnecessary and unethical to subject your readers or viewers to that kind of language. I fear I sound a bit like a grandmother when I say that you can go out on the street corner if you want to hear those words. Personally, I feel I am still very strongly affected by and have the same visceral reaction to those kinds of comments even when they aren’t explicitly stated.

Hochberg said in his article that newsrooms need to set standards for dealing with language and hate speech, especially in breaking news. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. I think it is hugely important that “a news organization’s policies on vulgar or hateful speech should be consistent, transparent, and justifiable” to their public. (Hochberg). Merely having the discussion about what the standards should be is a big step toward not letting hate speech permeate the media, especially not at the hands of those disseminating the news. Yes, those words and turns of phrase are out there, and no, we can’t run from them forever, but the media shouldn’t be the ones who are forcing people to confront such raw turns of phrase. That isn’t news. It’s shock. Anybody looking for more specifics than that can find it on their own.

Hate speech has no place in the media. Whether it is a reporter recounting what was written in a hateful Facebook post or somebody caught off guard, people shouldn’t have to worry about what they will be exposed to when they watch the news. They should be able to trust that everything they see will be accurate and honest, but also tasteful and respectful of them as viewers and readers. Hate speech is altering our culture by changing the way people look at the media. Instead of being something they can truth, it becomes something that may cause them some anxiety to watch, leaving them wondering what they may be exposed to next. I believe that hate can be conveyed without hate speech and therefore should be left out completely.


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