Monday, November 20, 2006
The story had been broken on TMZ.com, an entertainment Web site that had posted the video of Richard's tirade. CNN played a portion of the video, unedited, after a short disclaimer warning viewers of the potentially offensive language that it contained.
During the 2:47 minute clip, Richards cursed and screamed "the n-word" at least seven times to a group of African American hecklers. Richards also used a series of profanities and made reference to lynchings, during his tirade, noting something to the effect that 50 years ago, the hecklers would have been hanging upside down from a tree.
The news is making its way around the Internet and other journalistic outlets:
TMZ is continuing to play the video unedited.
Apparently AP has transcripts of the performance.
Only a handful of media outlets are sanitizing the comments - instead noting that Richards used the "n-word."
Question is, who is right?
The FCC recently reversed a ruling that subjected media outlets to fines for using profanity. It recently ruled that some profanity during a news show is acceptable. Meanwhile, longstanding rules of decency say that profanity, epithets and slurs are wrong and should not be re-aired so as not to continue to offend readers and/or viewers.
My thoughts? I think CNN did the right thing by playing the tapes unedited. By allowing viewers to see the actual context in which the words were said, it allows us to draw our own conclusion. From watching the tape, I don't believe Richards' was drunk, like Mel Gibson, and that his comments were meant to shock and appall. In that case, he succeeded.
I wasn't offended. I felt sorry that Richards felt he needed to resort to hurling slurs to save his act. (By the way, he was allowed to perform at the same club the following night.)
But I'm not everyone, and therein lies the dilemma.
Is it our job as journalists to not offend viewers or readers? Or is it our job to broadcast or write about incidents as they occured, without sanitizing them? continue...