Fan's t-shirt too risque for Tampa Bay Rays -- and St. Pete Times (for a while)

St. Petersburg Times

The St. Petersburg Times asks on its home page if the Tampa Bay Rays were "being fuddy-duddies" when they booted a fan for wearing a "Yankees Suck" t-shirt. The same question might be asked of the newspaper, which declined to use the "suck" in its print edition and, initially, on its website. (The Tampa Tribune took a much different approach: It used the word in its lead.) One Times reader commented:

My question is why refuse to mention the word 'sucks' in the article, but then put a picture of the gentleman wearing the shirt with the offending phrase on it literally right next to the paragraph that makes a point of not using the word?

I asked assistant managing editor/metro Jennifer Orsi about the editorial decision, and she passed my questions to managing editor/enterprise Mike Wilson. She noted that he planned to talk about the matter at this morning's news meeting. By the time Wilson responded, the online story was changed to include "suck."

My questions and Wilson's responses:

Does the Times have a blanket ban on the word SUCK?

Nah. We just try to avoid coarse language when we can.

If there is no blanket policy, why did the paper decide to use it for this story and make readers guess what the shirt said?

The editors preparing the story for print felt they could get the idea across without actually using the word -- a perfectly reasonable approach, in my view. The complication happened when we posted the print story online next to a picture of a guy in a T-shirt that said, "YANKEES SUCK."

Cat out of bag.

The lead item on The Times' web page says: "Melton Little got kicked out of a Rays game for wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, "Yankees suck." He thinks the Rays are being fuddy-duddies. Are they?" Why is it OK to use SUCK on the website when it's banned in the paper?

We think it's fine to edit differently for different audiences -- one way for the St. Pete Times, another for, another for tbt*. They're different audiences with different expectations.

But our online presentation of the T-shirt story was confusing. So this morning, we updated the online story to include the word "suck."


The standard disclosure: The St. Petersburg Times is owned by Poynter, which has used "Suck" in a headline at least once.

> Seth Stevenson: Sucks is here to stay, and deserves its place in our lexicon

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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