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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 06/30/2011

Halperin v. Obama: Who wins the euphemism battle?

Mainstream news organizations have it tough enough already. They pay big salaries for newsgathering, they have shrinking audiences, and people love to attack them.

And they’re also hamstringing themselves at critical moments, like this morning. The big news is that super-duper political analyst Mark Halperin said something nasty about President Barack Obama this a.m. on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He’s been suspended.

The stylebooks of the mainstream press, meanwhile, have prevented the outlets from conveying the news in adult fashion. With a prohibition on actually using Halperin’s language, a euphemistic wrestling match gets underway. Let’s see which outlet abridges the nastiness most effectively, starting with the worst.

No. 5 (tie). The New York Times writes: Well, nothing. Google searches plus an inventory of the paper’s blogs on politics and media yields nothing. Oh well, it’s one of the few times the New York Times will have anything in common with The Washington Times, also silent on the matter. (As of 11:00 a.m.)

No. 4. The Washington Post’s* Sarah Anne Hughes writes:

Mark Halperin, a political analyst on MSNBC, called President Obama a word that starts with ‘D’ and is synonymous with a part of the male anatomy Thursday on “Morning Joe.”

Skinny: Too long, zero on the cleverness quotient.

No. 3. NPR’s Mark Memmott writes:

Using a common euphemism for penis, Time magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin said during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program today that President Obama was a “@#$% yesterday,” during his White House news conference.

Skinny: Brief and not at all sophomoric.

No. 2. Politico, under the byline of Tim Mak, uses the inoffensive word in the story’s text, under this headline:”Mark Halperin suspended over Obama remark on Morning Joe (video)”

Skinny: Smart treatment and great minute-to-minute coverage.

No. 1. Atlantic Wire’s Erik Hayden uses the word in the text but fashions this headline: “What Mark Halperin Called Obama on Morning Joe”

Skinny: Expert balancing act here: Atlantic Wire both informs the public and keeps the (not really) offensive word out of the headline.

*It bears pointing out that I am also bound by the Washington Post’s style book---can’t do “D” about it.

By  |  10:40 AM ET, 06/30/2011

 
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