What we publish — in poor taste or not?

By · Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

not teaching,
still THINKING …

“In poor taste.” Those three words can be a major factor in whether material is published or kept from public view. How to decide?

Many times, it is up to individuals and colleagues to figure out where to draw the lines on appropriate subject matter for published content, including all the words and visuals that go along. Not easy.

Our digital world, where social media is a major player, means that anyone can participate, can take control of content and can publish it.

Things are further complicated by the nature of most audiences. They range dramatically in age, gender, ethnicity, religion and political philosophy, in what offends them and what does not.

Just as courts struggle to identify community standards in decency cases, so must we take the measure of our readership’s tolerance regarding taste.

And, we must do so without adopting dangerous presumptions, such as this:

“I’m writing for a college audience, so they won’t be offended.”

Any time we generalize about the audience, we’ll be wrong. A group of 20-year-olds is diverse.

We must find the sweet spot about what is ‘in poor taste.” We must be sensitive to acceptable standards, but without being a censor and without imposing personal values, likes and dislikes on everyone else.

And that is pretty much a matter of taste itself.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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