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That Bleeping '60 Minutes' Story

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Felix Gillette at CJR Daily has noted a discrepancy between the "60 Minutes" story on the Duke lacrosse rape case that aired on television and the Web version of said story. (Full disclosure: Gillette is a friend, and I used to work at CJR Daily.)

As Gillette notes, the Web version of the story included "some additional bleeping" that was not present in the broadcast. The passage in question is this one, in which Kim Roberts, the dancer who performed at the party with the accuser, recalls her interaction with one of the lacrosse players:

"I called him a little [expletive] white boy," she recalls laughing. "And how he couldn't get it on his own and had to pay for it. So, he was mad. And it ended with him callin' me the n-word. And it echoed, so you heard n..... once, and then you heard, n....., n....., n..... ."
On the broadcast, nothing was bleeped out – not the n-word, and not the "expletive." Gillette contacted "60 Minutes" spokesman Kevin Tedesco, who explained that the discrepancy was a mistake. I spoke to Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, for further clarification.

"In general, both those words are not appropriate for the Web site," said Sims. "In this specific case, we failed to check with the broadcast to see if they were going to bleep it or not. We believed that they were going to bleep it, and we would be consistent. End of story. So that's a mistake. We wrongly assumed they were going to bleep it."

Sims went on to say that "if we had known they were going to do it, and I had been called, I probably would have waved the policy and allowed them to use the words. But I probably would have had to think about it." He has elected to keep the original version of the story, with the words bleeped, on the site.

In June, prompted by Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's use of the phrase "f--king f-g," Public Eye took a detailed look at CBSNews.com's policy regarding offensive language. The n-word, as well as both words used by Guillen above, have appeared unbleeped in CBSNews.com stories in the past, usually in quotes. (One example: A story on Dick Armey mentioning how he once referred to Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank as "Barney F-g.") Dick Meyer, editorial director of CBSNews.com, said at the time that the site strives to avoid the "gratuitous" use of words that might be considered offensive. While he opposed running Guillen's comments without dashes, Meyer says this case is more ambiguous. "I certainly would have found this one a tougher call than Ozzie Guillen," wrote Meyer in an instant message. "I probably would have erred on the side on sanitizing. But I would be persuadable."

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