Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Tiger Woods fallout

I'm having a too much to blog day. There is so much stuff in my head I want to slam down into the blog that it's all a bit too much. I've not blogged for a couple of weeks so it was bound to happen.

This week's busy-ness is down to recording the next podcast (slightly early cos Mat Fraser is zooming off to the states on Monday) and also Tiger Woods didn't help.

It was a weird week, my Assistant Producer was away on annual leave and suddenly the heavens broke. I was working ridiculously long hours - wednesday I worked 5am til 10pm.

Tiger Woods. I have to say I don't particularly care that he said spaz though I am minded of the whole little acts of degradation debate that Ragged Edge are having at the moment.

I posted an article late Tuesday morning soon after the news broke. Within 3 hours we were receiving approx 1 email per minute about it. WE must've had hundreds now in the past few days. The vast majority were from non-disabled people all keen to a: rubbish us for mentioning it and B: point out that spaz isn't a disability related word in America "it just means idiot" wrote one person. "it describes someone who is a klutz, lacking balance, undignified, clumsy and uncoordeinated" wrote another (I paraphrased that last quote).

Isn't this the whole point though? Do I need to say more?

Clearly language changes though. Idiot in Britain was, if I recall correctly, far more offensive 200 years ago ... referring very specifically to people locked away for being mad? We now use it in a friendly way. It has no real sting. But then I spoke to some Americans who were offended by it. We're aware a journalist got Tiger to repeat his phrase replacing the word 'spaz' with 'wreck' ... so what does that say? It must've been very quickly understood that it was offensive, no?

The hundreds of emails we received were from the "political correctness gone mad" brigade. The tone was unpleasant. Particular kudos to the person who wrote calling us cunts ... and the other person who cleverly said that Ouch was more of an offensive word to him. Brilliant.

It's all been an intersting debate though ... but maybe I'm finding it interesting for the wrong reasons. I'm fascinated by the human response to what I wrote.

On Wednesday I wrote a very balanced and fair article which summed up the situation to me.

Amazing response. Yet more emails. I'm told almost half a million people read that article in its first 24-hours of being live on the news site. Certainly Ouch's hits quadrupled too.

I'm told we made Popbitch and B3ta websites and newsletters too. And also the Drudge Report???? (I've yet to find reference to it on that site though, if anyone could help that'd be appreciated).

Course, with a name next to it, the emails got that bit more personal towrds me. But above many things I've written recently, I'm really quite pleased with that BBC News article. I hope it places the whole language thing in a context, of sorts.

As a journalist you want response so I was very pleased. I'm aware people probably clicked and read it more because they were surprised to see the word 'spaz' on a BBC news website. Oh and many more uses of the word spaz to be heard on Radio 4's You and Yours programme this Monday when they review the Ouch Podcast. Incidentally presenter John Waite loveds the podcast.

Have lots of other things to say. Very impressed by the whole Blogging Against Disablism idea that Goldfish has come up with.

Talking of blogs, Ouch's own weblog is about to get updated. At the moment it's a little bit of an unsatisfactory user experience as you have to wait hours if not days (if it's a weekend) before your comments go live. Well, we'll soon have a 24-hour moderation system in place which means it can be a truer live'er blog. And we really hope that disabled bloggers will be keen to post that bit more because we love having those links back to your personal blogs ... it'd be great to grow that disabled blogging community some more and intertwine and cross reference it all that little bit more. We all know there are lots of experiences from disabled people that just aren't shared ... never see the light of day ... the blogging community could be a powerful source, a powerful POLITICAL source of growth, pressure and appreciation around disability matters and our lifestyles. I've tried to arrange protests before and there is a real issue with getting disabled people physically into one place at the same time for so many reasons. Cost is another reason. Doing things adhoc in real life non-webspace is an issue. SO hail to the Goldfish and congrats for that mention in The Guardian.


Katie said...

Blimey Damon! Sounds like you've been very busy in the Ouch office last week!

Like the sound of all the things happening and the weblog changing slightly, it will be good to comment on it and more people see my blog, when they click on my name.

Blimey, You probably must have worked your socks off on Weds when you worked until 10pm!!! Did you take breaks? All in the name of disability journalism eh?

I thought that remark by Tiger Woods was stupid and he should have been more considerate than to use a deragoratory term used to describe disabled people. But glad he apologised for using it.

Sometimes the language that non disabled people use to call us can be very spiteful can't it, and they never think that when they use it, it can be hurtful towards us with disabilities.

I even find the Americans terms for the language hurtful when they use the "H" word (that annoys me when people I know use it!) and the word that Tiger Woods used.

I think it's bad that you recieved unpleasant emals after your article in the BBC news website. You obviously have to put up with a lot of stick and I feel for you in the sense you shouldn't have to put up with it.

You are a great journalist working for a great website on the Beeb and people should be more respectful of the job you do inside the BBC and you should have more recognition from the heads in power at the BBC, like Mark Thompson and people.

Sorry for causing embarassment there on that last remark!

Kev said...

Great article, Damon. It's interesting, isn't it, that the "political correctness gone mad" brigade claims that others are far too sensitive about the (inappropriate) use of the language. But when their response is outrage, scorn and vituperation, one is forced to wonder if it's really such an non-issue for them. Hmmm. It reminds me very much of some of the "debates" around feminism. What it seems to boil down to is that people feel threatened by this sort of challenge to their use of the language. It's a power thing. They don't want uppity disabled people any more than they want/wanted uppity women (or indeed any other minority group). All those negative emails you received just prove you hit a nerve. That has to be a good thing.

I hope your weekend is a bit more relaxing than this past week.

Darediva said...

Good on you, Damon, for pointing out the obvious in your article. Some people are down to their last nerve and you managed to get on it. I love it.

Personally, I don't think Tiger Woods would intentionally have used the word had he known the connotation elsewhere than in the US. He has apologised, and that's good enough for me.

Ok, so if I get the chance to come across the big pond, I am now aware of one more faux pas I can avoid. For me, that's a good thing.

That thing about ours being two countries separated by a common language holds true. Don't try asking for a "fag" here. Wouldn't get the desired results, I'd say.

The Goldfish said...

Wow - sounds like there was more of an uproar about the uproar than the original uproar, so to speak.

Thanks for your words about Blogging Against Disablism Day. :-)

Charlesdawson said...

Reminds me of the uproar when that footballer (who?) shot his mouth off about disability being a punishment for sins in a past life.

Sorry to be cynical, but how many of the journos promoting the story (your goodself excepted: you've got a legitimate interest)gave a **** about the feelings of the disabled community, and were just indulging in the well-known game of Savage a Celeb. The Murdoch Press, for
example, isn't noted either for its tasteful choice of language or its care for people's feelings.

Glad to see that ouch! at least kept a level head and made a dignified reaction.

Lady Bracknell said...

If you use "Tiger Woods" as a search term on the Drudge Report site, there's a direct link through to your article.

If there's any comment on what you wrote, I can't find it.