I Feel Pretty and Witty and . . . What?

When an athlete's surname appeared to portray certain matters in a positive light, technology came to the rescue.
When an athlete's surname appeared to portray certain matters in a positive light, technology came to the rescue. (By Andy Lyons -- Getty Images)
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Having an "auto-replace" filter seemed like a good notion at the time to folks at the conservative American Family Association's OneNewsNow.com Web site. There were certain words that would pop up from time to time in the Associated Press stories that moved onto the site that were a bit salacious, or unacceptable to post.

"We don't have the staff to monitor all the Hollywood stories," news director Fred Jackson said yesterday, "so we wanted an automated function." He said they put up the filter about a month or so ago.

One word they wanted to filter was "gay." The site felt that the term put the matter of homosexuality "in a positive light," Jackson said, when the evangelical Christian organization was much opposed. So when a wire story referred to gay marriage, for example, the phrase would automatically appear as "homosexual marriage."

Worked fine until Sunday, when the AP reported that "Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials." The story was headlined "Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials."

"On Saturday," the story said, "Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat . . ."

That's world champion sprinter Tyson Gay, of course.

The filtered stories were spotted by the liberal People for the American Way. The organization has a "Right Wing Watch Blog," communications director Peter Montgomery said, and folks "who monitor religious-right Web sites as part of watchdogging the religious right and its political allies."

The organization took a screen capture, he said, just before OneNewsNow fixed the text. An earlier story on the Web site referred to pro basketball player Rudy Homosexual, better known as Rudy Gay.

Apparently there were no references in the past month to writer Homosexual Talese or to the Enola Homosexual.

As with all good pieces of software, Jackson said, there are drawbacks. It was "a lesson for us to learn," he said. Jackson didn't know what other words were targeted, but "we have taken ['gay'] off the filter."

So at Christmas you can don that gay apparel.

True, the Sadness Isn't Effable

Quote of the week . . . (yes, it's only Wednesday, but surely we have a winner).

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