Monday, December 18, 2006

In Freedom’s Name – The Great Indian Penis Debate

Editors spend most of their time trying to get stuff into the paper. Lawyers, politicians, businessmen, even lazy reporters conspire to ensure that things that should appear don’t get into the paper.
So, it was with a heavy heart that I ‘pulled’ a column that had been written for the comment pages of the Trinidad Express. It followed a study from the Indian Council of Medical Research which found that condoms made to international standards are too large for a majority of Indian men, or put another way, their penises are too small.
Cue much merriment in the column, which did indeed have its funnier moments.

“Indian men probably hope to dismiss the survey as, ‘No big thing!’ but the truth, as indubitable as it is irrational, is that penis dimensions have an importance to men way out of proportion to their size. In a quite literal sense, it really is no big thing.”

Here in the Trinidad there are about equal number of people from African and Indian descent, nearly 600,000 of each (the rest of us go into the ubiquitous ‘others’). To light this particular touch paper was just not something I wanted to do. There are many causes I would go into battle for, but the size of Indian men’s penises is not one of them.
The indignant writer – and I admire his indignation – asked me to appeal to some of the younger female staff for their views, which I duly did.

One wrote… –

“Well, what can I say? Firstly, I am horrified by the offensive nature of the column(definitely not funny). Secondly this is not something I think any of our readers would appreciate.”

Another… –

“*gasp* putting our hands in the hornet’s nest are we? This story would reach media-frenzy status! The idea was a great concept, but definitely not for the faint-hearted... it would only serve to spark and fuel much controversy.”

And another… –

“The column makes for fun, humourous reading for some. But we work in a newsroom and are educated and open minded enough to see where [he] is coming from and I’m one of his fans. There are many in Trinidad and Tobago who are offended at the slightest quips. Some of them illiterate and they would not find the column relayed by two or three people down a chain, adding their own salt and sugar perhaps, the least bit funny. I know for management’s bottom-line, they could already be pointing to massive advertising and readership fall-out.”

So, in the court of newsroom opinion, the column didn't run either.
Final word with the columnist: “In future you might see why I do so much in freedom’s name – don’t think I’m always right but do know how important it is in TT sometimes to err on the side of liberty.”

Freedom and liberty, now they are some big topics.

Friday, December 01, 2006

So farewell then to the Press Gazette

Sneaking a look at the editor’s Press Gazette (then UKPG) was one of the first of many newsroom dark arts learned at the knee of old hands who should have known better.
Now it is no more – maybe not for long according to latest reports – but I’m proud to publish this ode from PT Stodd, not to be confused with EJ Thribb, on its passing.

So farewell then to the Press Gazette
The hacks' neglected organ.
You seemed to chug along quite well
in the years before Piers Morgan.

After 40 years of obits
for subs from Slough to Chester
they're writing your obituary
for the want of a good investor.

So where to look now that you've gone
for jobs on Ilkley Moor?
And those ads for freelance writers
that smack of model, second floor.

We'll miss you dear old Press Gazette
and wish you all the best.
You lost your UK long ago
and now you've lost the rest.

PT Stodd
aged 62 and a week