Dept. Of Eff The Heck Off: Prairie Dog Haz Offended Again!

We received this lovely voice-mail message from a Concerned Local Businessperson:

“I own four businesses in Regina and there’s no way in hell I’d ever advertise anything in your magazine after reading page seven where you’ve used the word “eff eff eff eff eff eff eff””. If you think businesses want to be associated with a piece of crap like that you might want to think again. Totally unprofessional, totally inappropriate for a city like Regina [that] likes to promote community and good things. Just a piece of garbage. I will be passing this on to a lot of my other friends in Regina who own businesses and say, ‘just stay away’ from this magazine. Bye! [click]”

Thanks very much for the thoughtful comments sent from your unlisted phone line. We do appreciate anonymous complaints and take them very seriously. It sounds like you’re upset about this article. I’ll attempt to address your concerns:

1.) Perhaps the problem here is that you’ve never read anything like prairie dog — which, to be fair, has only been  in existence for 18 yearsbefore, and you’re surprised to find something that contains such, ah, lively writing. And yet, perhaps surprisingly to you, publications like PD are a common phenomenon!  Our magazine belongs to a category of free publications called “alternative newsweeklies”. These free picker-uppers tend to have a left-leaning mix of news and commentary along with lively music, film, arts and lifestyle coverage. Articles in alts tend to be characterized by strong opinion, humour, intelligence and grown-up language. This is fine: alts are intended for an adult readership; in fact, in most markets they’re packed with ads for booze, pubs and clubs.

There is even an industry association (which, unfortunately, we are not a member of because we only publish bi-weekly).

You can find alts in most North American cities — my favourites are The Stranger in Seattle, Now in Toronto and The Coast in Halifax. The Georgia Straight in Vancouver is also excellent. Even conservative Alberta has three alts: two in Edmonton (See and Vue) and one in Calgary (FFWD). All are delightful.

2.) Thank you for offering to organize an advertising boycott over writing you personally find offensive! Nothing says “I support free speech” like an attack on a newspaper’s revenue. However, before you condemn our use of language, you might want to consider that some of your business’ customers almost certainly employ a ripe vocabulary on occasion. Some of them  doubtless read and enjoy our cute little newspaper! To be safe, you might want to hang signs on the doors of all four of your shops advising such undesirables to take their business elsewhere (perhaps the Internet?). Fortunately there’s an excellent chance they already do since you don’t currently advertise in prairie dog. Like us, our readers don’t have a clue who you are or what you sell.

3.) The reason we ran this naughty-language-filled feature is because Canadians elected a radical, American-style political party to a majority government and we’re all completely freaked out. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seem like the opposite of everything Canada stands for–notably compassion, tolerance and reason. Plus, like most media outlets, we’ve spent years reporting in detail on Conservative sins — their structural deficits, hostility to media, chronic distortion of facts, the cancelled daycare program, attacks on dissenting opinions, science and research, the arts, minority rights, and all kinds of fun like that. Many Saskatchewan voters apparently don’t read, don’t care or both, so in the end we kind of threw up our hands here and figured, what’s the point in reporting facts? Let’s just swear a lot. We’ll feel better, and so will a lot of our readers.

Then again, if you go by the polling stations rather than the ridings (which are freakish and unnatural amalgamations of rural and urban voters) Reginans apparently voted 51 per cent for the NDP. Which means 51 per cent of your customers, probably spent election night swearing too.

You might want to have a word with them.

Thanks again for the phone call! Best regards,


Stephen Whitworth, Editor

prairie dog

Regina’s Independent Voice

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

14 thoughts on “Dept. Of Eff The Heck Off: Prairie Dog Haz Offended Again!”

  1. I was wondering why the newspaper stand was missing from one of the neighbourhood places where I can usually pick up a pd copy. Hmmmmm.

  2. Do local radio stations with morning shows that regularly get extremely anatomical in their banter get calls like that?

  3. Hey Stephen, where did you get these polling station results? Would love to take a look

  4. John: “a source”! Shh!

    I’ll ask my source, because I can’t find that breakdown on the Elections Canada site.

    Thanks Barb! Terry says the stand you mention is prone to migrations but always returns on its own.

  5. Yeah, the Coast really has their act together. (They also have about 10 times the advertising revenue our company does. #Jealous.)

  6. Emmet: I think what might be going on is that broadcasters can say pretty much any boneheaded thing that occurs to them because a.) no one is really paying that close of attention; and, b.) once they say it, it has passed and unless someone puts their lamebrained words into text, their offensive blather fades into a faint memory.

    Print journalists don’t get off that easy because text sticks around. Every time someone opens the May 5 edition of p-dog, there’s Emmet, still cussing like a sailor.

    It’s not that broadcasters say less offensive things. It’s that when print journalism is re-read it re-offends.

    I was going to call it the Tethercat Principle based on the complaints Gary Larson received over one of his comics. And then I googled that phrase and discovered someone already coined it.

    Damnable internet. I should sue.

  7. When broadcasters use the word ‘Fuck’ on the air, they lose their jobs. Does the alt newspaper industry have the equivilent of the CBSC or the CRTC to answer to when someone complains and subsequently is not satisfied with the paper’s reply?

    You are mistaken if you think no one is paying attention…there are more ears on most commercial station’s morning shows daily than there are eyes on the PD every two weeks.

  8. There is no regulatory body for alt newspapers though AAN members would have to follow the organization’s bylaws. Hopefully someday we’ll be members.

  9. Thanks, DRPB, if that is your real name (I have my doubts). Here are a few points to consider as well:
    1) Broadcast’s audience is passive. Reading is active. You can’t read something by accident the way you might walk into a room where someone’s left the radio on and inadvertently hear a Carrie Underwood song. So, yeah, a stricter responsibility to a general audience for broadcasters should be expected.
    2) I haven’t listened to corporate Regina AM radio in almost a decade, but what I remember was everything but the F-word, a lot of hostility toward women with the odd bit of homophobia thrown in. Hopefully it’s changed, I don’t know, but that was the norm back then. I guess they all imagined themselves tiny Sterns.
    3) The line between editorial and advertising in corporate radio is–well, is there a line? I always felt kind of embarrassed when a local business would get their plug in the same breath as a particularly graphic Monica Lewinsky joke.
    4) Truth be told, I’m personally not a big fan of the F-word. I usually avoid using it in print, because it becomes a distraction from the actual point–as it clearly has here. I’d rather be talking to you about what the heck how we’re going to find a way to keep things in Canada from becoming as divisive and frankly scary as they are in the USA. But you know what? On election night, in that moment, those seemed the best words to express my sputtering shock and dismay at a Harper majority which is almost certain to make things really, really awful for the most vulnerable Canadians, some of whom I know personally. Would I use the F-word in a more thoughtful, considered piece that I truly hoped would sway readers’ hearts & minds? You tell me. But that’s me, that’s my choice.

  10. “Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
    “When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak – probably both.”

    Personally, I think over-use of the F-word turns an otherwise valid argument into an oil-patch/construction site flavoured rant. Used sparingly however, it can be quite effective. But that’s just my thoughts.

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