The New York Times' Elizabeth Jensen has as a short item about Tina Brown's retooled Newsweek featuring more FCC-banned words than it used to. This is not the first time that the profanity police have called on Brown. This latest episode stems from complaints by PBS station directors who offer Newsweek subscriptions as gifts for subscribers that their viewers with delicate sensibilities may be offended by the Tina-ized Newsweek.
How much has it changed? Jensen relies on blogger Jim McPherson who noted after reading the January 26 issue that words like "fuck" and "shit" were printed in full without any sort of character-replacing fig leaf to soften curse words' impact. "Newsweek, probably as a result over being taken over by the upstart Daily Beast, doesn’t take the silly Wheel of Fortune route. No, it goes out of its way to slap readers upside their heads with coarse language, even when that language serves no meaningful purpose." That seems harsh to us. The Atlantic Wire follows the same rule that Newsweek executive editor Justine Rosenthal explained to The Times: “We do not use profanity unless within a quote or in the context of a story and care is taken to ensure it is never used gratuitously.” McPherson may be shocked to discover that movie stars "come across as a group of hormonal middle school students," as the foul-mouthed bunch did in the magazine's Oscar Roundtable, that may just be because he hasn't spent enough time on sets.
Tina Brown watchers with long memories might recall a similar complaint dogging the editor after she took over The New Yorker in 1992. On the occasion of her one year anniversary at the helm of that magazine, Spy Magazine ran an item headlined "Fuck Yes, The New Yorker," that compared some of the words that appeared in The New Yorker before and after Brown took over. Among the words used under Robert Gottlieb, the magazine's previous editor: "Intransigent," "avuncular," "ballyhooed,"and "panoply." Among the words used under Brown: "fuck," "masturbatory soft porn," "warm piss," "fart," and "bitch."
Perhaps these words are all a part of Brown's editorial plans for Newsweek, which the editor described to Peter M. Stevenson in a New York Times Magazine profile last May:
"I’m not very good with people who aren’t committed… 'Kathy O’Hearn from CNN has come over to develop our Web TV. Kathy says, 'Don’t come here unless you’re balls to the wall' So now we call it 'B to the W!’ We say, ‘Is he B to the W?’ Because otherwise someone comes in and says, ‘Well, two days a week I have to teach at N.Y.U. . . .’ And we say, ‘Not B to the W!’"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.