Public Editor

Washington NFL team slur accidentally published

Newspapers run a lot of content that doesn’t originate in their own newsrooms: wire stories, weather data, and a variety of statistics and listings. While those items are always subject to editing at the local level, many of them run exactly as they were originally sent in.

The Kansas City Star has long forbidden the casual use of Washington’s NFL team’s name, on the grounds that it is indisputably a racial epithet. There have been many cases where that rule is broken, as in news coverage of the debate over whether to change it or not. By coincidence, a letter to the editor in today’s edition uses it in a context where it helps make a point. That’s defensible.

But one emailer pointed out the word also made it into print in the daily “TV Tonight” grid on Page 22 of the Preview section. There, it’s with the listing for the team’s game against the New York Giants.

TV listings come from an outside service. And while the policy applies to all departments, the Features department, which oversees Preview, likely doesn’t have the issue on its radar as acutely as Sports would.

I’ve shared this with editors there. The change could — and should — have been made before the section went to the presses.

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