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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


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Journalism has long demanded that its workers refrain from bumper stickers and any other display of favoritism and bias. I always believed it was a good thing in that world of attempted objectivity. But as that standard begins to dissolve and transparency moves to the forefront, maybe it's time we revisit the subject.

I'm sure that work-place harassment policies, which are often poorly defined and applied unevenly, have contributed to a environment in which people don't know what to say and more importantly, don't know what to listen to. Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate about the need to protect individual rights to work unmolested, even if it's only verbally.

But defining a "hostile environment" is a tricky thing, more so because we all draw our own lines between appropriate and not. What makes me uncomfortable might be far less controversial than what you find objectionable. Is it a hostile environment if I overhear a co-worker say someone is pretty? Hot? He'd like to do her? Is telling a racial or sexist joke off limits?

The workplace is perhaps the place such ambiguity is best explored, but I'll bet the dampening effects trickle into all our public places of conversation. Is this a result of decades of over-zealous political correctness?

Raising awareness of this issue is a very good first step. Perhaps it will at least spark conversations that aren't made irrelevant by self-censorship.

I have one last point and that is this: When we make some topics too sensitive to discuss in anything less than an intimate setting, we eliminate a primary means of effecting change. The elephant in the room that cannot be acknowledged will continue to damage the house.

Nicely done, sloop.

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