Let’s talk about pixellating a sex toy.
The Courier’s report about a Jack Russell emerging from bushes in a Markinch park carrying a large black rubber sex toy in its mouth is generating interest online and alarm among residents.
At time of writing, more than 160 people have commented on the Facebook post that links to that story, which includes a photo showing the dog but obscuring the adult item.
All those same readers (yes, including children) have easy access to online adverts showing sex toys unpixellated. So why is The Courier reluctant to display such an item?
Part of the reason is web traffic (nobody wants their news site flagged by companies’ web browsers that are in no way being used by their workers for a nice wee skive that we can totally spot every day in our analytics soon after most of you arrive for work) but much of it is a legacy media issue about the expectations of readers.
Read news outlets founded more recently (say, Vice or Buzzfeed), or those that have decided to allow adult content (such as The Guardian, with F-bombs in opinion columns), and perhaps the sex toy would have been visible.
But, in regional media, where readers are more sensitive and the news business works differently, caution pays off.
It doesn’t always work. This is, after all, a newspaper that once showed part of Geri Halliwell’s nipple on the front page. No system is perfect, but we try to avoid shocking people in the wrong ways.
I do wonder, though, how many readers understand what’s involved in such safeguards. I often see online anger, justified and unjustified, at news outlets and their decision-makers, senior and junior, and I want to remind people that journalists are human, too. Admittedly, they’re tough humans who can handle criticism and arguments, but I’ve worked on a web desk and I’m glad I don’t any more.
Getting to the point: pixellating that sex toy seems daft, but it shows somebody is trying to make good judgements as they provide the information that gets us through the day.
Thank you for saving me from that sex toy, even though I didn’t need saved. I appreciate the effort.