Content Standards: Avoiding offensive content
This is the sixth of a 10-part series explaining Bleacher Report’s Content Standards in depth.
What is offensive content? We can start with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous phrase about trying to define hard-core pornography—”I know it when I see it”—but it’s hard to make that work as a standard. What one person sees as a crudely offensive remark may seem nothing of the sort to someone else.
At Bleacher Report, we toe the PG to PG-13 line in terms of edginess. We strive to be as objective as possible in identifying offensive content in submissions through specific categories. However, offensive content is not necessarily restricted to these areas.
Ultimately, before writing something that may be perceived as a bit much, consider this: If you were reading your submission with someone else’s eyes on this site, what would you think?
Incitement to Violence
Talk that glorifies or advocates gratuitous violence in any fashion will be removed. Saying a player should be maimed for poor performances or predicting future injuries to players are two examples.
To quote the site’s Community Guidelines, any writing that contains “racial, ethnic, gender, sexual slurs and/or stereotypes” will be removed, and the writer will be subject to further sanctions.
On a related but important note, any lists ranking sports figures based off the aforementioned labels, or their looks in a negative light, are subject to immediate removal.
Update: Bleacher Report’s policy on profanity has changed since this post was published. Please see the post Important changes to Content Standards on profanity, gambling, attribution for the current policy.
The best way to put it is that if a curse word cannot be used in a PG film or TV show, it should not be used in a Bleacher Report article,
with one exception. If the offensive language is quoted material that’s germane to an important story, it’s better to use it—sparingly—than to make readers guess at the offending word by censoring it with asterisks or hyphens, or by using paraphrases, euphemisms or verbal veils. For more on this issue, see this blog post that followed Kobe Bryant’s use of offensive language toward a referee last year.
Also, if you are using a video with such language, please add a clearly visible disclaimer warning readers in advance. Typical courtesy is to say something to this effect: Warning, this video contains NSFW (Not Safe for Work) language.
Bleacher Report permits the limited publication of “sexy slideshows,” but they must always be published under the supervision of an assignment editor and follow guidelines that include having a clear sports connection and not containing revealing nudity. “Sexy slideshows” published without the prior approval of an assignment editor will be removed.
Vulgar content, in Bleacher Report terms, is anything that readers can deem to be in excessively poor taste. Generally, this is content containing crude, graphic or coarse language, videos or images.
Examples include a snapshot of a particularly gruesome injury or sexually suggestive language.
Insensitivity to Tragedy/Death/Injury
Any discussion about a specific tragedy, death or injury must not only be respectful but also directly connected to the sports world in some way.
It is unacceptable to draw parallels between real-world events—especially tragedies—and sports to try to capitalize on short-term traffic opportunities at the risk of long-term damage to reputation
For more insight on the topic, please read this B/R blog post: How To Write Sensitively About Tragedy and Scandal.
Most of it boils down to common sense, but please don’t cross the PG-13 line.
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Paul Kasabian is Bleacher Report’s Content Moderation Coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.