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PCC rules media use of n word a style issue

By The Ligali Organisation | Wed 27 August 2014

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has chosen to support media publication of the n word following a complaint about its repeated unedited use in the Guardian newspaper


Bianca Strohmann, a complaints officer writing on behalf of the PCC acknowledged the n word to be an ‘offensive, and indeed a pejorative’ term. However she disagreed with the complainant that in repeating the racist term in full, the Guardian newspaper had breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

In its report into the complaint the PCC stated that the terms of Clause 12 were designed to “protect individuals and do not apply to groups or categories of people”.

Clause 12 states that “the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

However whilst in the majority of the reported instances the word had been used in general terms, in one case mentioned in the complaint it had referred to an individual.

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Recognises the sensitivity?

The Guardian’s editorial position on the matter is that whilst it recognises the sensitivity around usage if the word, “in the interests of transparency, it did not wish to censor direct quotes”.

The PC continued to state that publications under its jurisdiction were free to make style decisions, provided that in doing so they did not breach the terms of the Code.

The complainant, Nia Reynolds wrote “I do not intend to end my campaign. It seems to me that all progressive and right-thinking individuals ought to have a position on this matter and the courage of their conviction to act.”

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External Links
The N-word: do we have to spell it out?
Jeremy Clarkson begs forgiveness over N-word footage
Has Django Unchained defused the n-bomb?
The Press Complaints Commission - Clause 12
Def Poetry - Julian Curry - The [n word]


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