Mail Tribune 100 edited for offensive language

News reporters for the most part wrote differently 100 years ago than they do now. Often racial hints and unflattering social commentaries were woven in to their reports. As you select articles from your archives for the 2013 reading audiences, do your writers "touch up" what is being printed to make the articles more socially acceptable? Are there articles that you choose not to print because of their salty language?

— Larry S., Jacksonville

Using our archives to watch the world unfold a century after the fact can be a powerful way to demonstrate how different the world was.

It was a time that was both simpler and, in some cases, less kind or ethical, with front-page scandals about divorce and business features dripping with hyperbole, or as you pointed out, Larry, reporting that reflected racist attitudes toward immigrants and minorities.

In our Mail Tribune 100 column (which appears daily on Page 2A), we're trying to give our readers a glimpse of the past rather than unwind a century of progress. For that reason, we choose not to print adjectives that modern readers would consider slurs. Instead we use parentheses to convey the article's meaning without rewriting history, such as we did Monday, Dec. 2 (that's 2013 to keep things clear), when we chose a 1913 census report of students at Medford schools that included demographics on race. The information in the article was interesting, but the terms used to describe Japanese and African-American students in the original report would have been considered offensive by most, if not all, readers.

And, yes, Larry, there have been times that we've chosen not to print an entire piece because of its racist tones.

An example: Stories about boxing — particularly those featuring Medford-raised Bud Anderson — seem to have been an interest of early 20th-century readers, and we select those pieces frequently, but we skipped a story on a bout Anderson had with a black boxer because the article's frequent use of racist terms.

Those who forget history may be condemned to repeat it, but choosing to repeat it verbatim would almost certainly lead to condemnation of a different sort.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

Clarification: This headline has been updated to reflect more accurately the offensive, historical language that is removed from the Mail Tribune 100 feature.

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