Yesterday at Media Nation, my friend and former colleague Dan Kennedy argued that the Beverly Citizen erred in posting video footage of the Beverly Horribles parade, which contained some pretty off-color references to the ongoing Gloucester teen-pregnancy story. (By "pretty off-color references," I mean, among other things, a giant squirting penis and signs reading "G.H.S. girls went to band camps/came back pregnant tramps" and "She smelled like tuna/I shoulda pulled out sooner.") Here's the video in question; things get interesting around 2:20:
As Dan notes, the Citizen's written coverage of the parade was rather restrained. (In a news story, the giant squirting penis was described "as large, realistically shaped phallic symbol spraying water from the front of a truck"; in a blog post, Citizen editor Dan MacAlpine said he wouldn't get into describing the signs, calling them "lewd at best.") This restraint is the basis for Dan's argument that the Citizen shouldn't have posted the video:
Look, it happened. Hundreds of people saw it. Hundreds more heard about
it. There's no sense in pretending otherwise. But if they didn't think
they should quote from the signs, then they shouldn't have showed them
in the video. As for the penis — well, let just say I think the written
description was sufficient.
I disagree. The video should be our basis for saying whether the Citizen's written coverage was appropriate, not the other way around. The video, after all, is the rawest, most objective representation of what happened in Beverly this past weekend. And if the good people of Beverly really want to ponder what some of their neighbors did in the Horribles parade, they need all the information they can get. An argument can definitely be made that the Citizen's written coverage was too prudish. But if it was, the posting of the video was a much-needed corrective.
(Quick disclosure: the Citizen is now owned by GateHouse Media, which purchased Community Newspaper Company in 2006. When the Citizen and CNC were owned by Pat Purcell, I worked at another CNC paper, and know MacAlpine slightly.)