Review editor wins award for censorship editorial

A column about censorship written by the Rimbey Review’s George Brown has been recognized as one of the year’s best

  • Aug. 14, 2012 10:00 a.m.

A column about censorship written by the Rimbey Review’s George Brown has been recognized as one of the year’s best among an association of newspaper editors.

His January 2011 editorial, “Decide for yourself what words are offensive” was selected by a team of judges as among the Golden Dozen honoured by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) at their annual conference in Bellingham, Wash.

Brown said writing this editorial was “like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s tough not to get worked up about censorship and when you throw a few idiots into the mix — well, the words just seem to flow.”

The editorial centred on the decision of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) that the Dire Straits song Money for Nothing, a song that has played on radio stations around the world for more than a generation, contravened the human rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code. One person complained — 25 years after the song went to number 1 on the charts — that it was discriminatory because it includes the word faggot in its lyrics.

The CBSC ruled the song would be acceptable for airplay if the song were “suitably edited.”

After some outcry, the CBSC later thought better of its decision and reversed its action.

Judge Lyle E. Harris Sr, journalism professor emeritus at Western Washington University, said Brown’s editorial “addresses the issue in Canada and the United States, using powerful examples of censorship that succeeded, or failed, and tells his readers that removing words in classic literature that today are offensives is a harsh disservice to readers’ rights to be challenged in their thinking.”

“Canada and the United States have a created a culture of censorship: we allow government censorship; we permit citizens to initiate censorship; and we censor ourselves, lest we offend our neighbours,” Brown told an international audience of newspaper people.

“Every day we see reminders of why we as newspaper editors must fight for freedom of speech.”

Brown also received the ISWNE Golden Dozen Award in 2006 for an editorial about the Royal Visit to Alberta in 2005; and in 2008 for a piece about the importance of voting in the 2007 municipal election.