Public Editor

Paula Deen 'hillbillies' wisecrack offends

Updated: 2013-07-02T00:59:42Z

By DEREK DONOVAN

The Kansas City Star

On Saturdays, the print edition of the FYI section features an item called “The Week That Was” across the top of its front page. It’s a humorous compendium of pop culture tidbits from several Features department staff members.

Written in a style similar to the many popular celebrity gossip blogs, I generally hear from its fans, who enjoy the irreverent style and frothy subject matter. But this past weekend’s edition contained one crack that several readers objected to.

Wednesday’s entry read:

Paula Deen dissolves into tears on NBC’s “Today” show. Wal-Mart and others drop her, but sales of her upcoming cookbook soar on Amazon, proving once again that the Internet is just chock-full of hillbillies.

Those comments, “while not as objectionable as Deen's, are still out of order,” wrote one emailer. “It shouldn't be necessary for me to point out why.”

“Considering all that has happened to Paula Deen this week I think that your writers of this section should be as vilified for their 'once again proving' statement,” wrote a Facebook user. “I am sure that there are many people that would be deeply offended. Of all people reporters should know the importance of words.”

Comedy can be dangerous, especially when it treads on sensitive cultural issues. While this is of course the essence of subjectivity, I certainly understand why some readers took offense in this case.

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