'Political Correctness': Journalists Attempt to Define What It Means Today

Article excerpt

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, THE term that was born in the 1960s and sparks fervent debates in the 1990s, was the topic of discussion at a recent meeting of editorial writers and columnists.

A panel of speakers, moderated by Stephen Isaacs, associate dean of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, met last week for the New York convention of the Association of Opinion Page Editors. One consensus point was that some current interpretations of "political correctness" don't bear much resemblance to its original intent.

Amity Shales, editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal, noted that during the 1960s and 1970s, the country became increasingly aware and welcoming of its growing diversity and the accompanying range of views. But, Shales said the good intentions of political correctness were lost, and "By the time I finished college, I was under the impression that what was happening in the name of diversity was occasionally the opposite of tolerance."

For Shales, political correctness has come to symbolize, "a sense of airlessness ... that is the opposite of the tolerant, interesting feeling that started all of this in the 1960s."

Juan Gonzales, columnist for the New York Daily News, agreed the term has taken on negative connotations. However, he laid blame at the feet of those who, he said, want to protect long-held influence.

In Gonzales' opinion, "Political correctness is a label foisted on dissident voices by those who want to maintain the mainstream views in media and education."

Gabriel Rotello, a columnist for Newsday and New York Newsday said the term is wielded as a club "to bludgeon anybody who agrees with the idea that [for example], gay people should not be oppressed ...."

He also noted a self-defeating form of political correctness that "attempts to censor opinions that are different from the sort of classic left-wing ideology of the 60's."

Judy Dugan, Voices editor for the Los Angeles Times, views political correctness as a "pejorative label," utilized by "people who are trying to put down the idea of a more rounded world in newspapers, or anywhere."

Political correctness "makes you think of some Stalinist rigidity that is not the reality in trying to achieve diversity," Dugan said.

The expression takes on various connotations in different parts of the country, noted Bob Moos, op-ed editor for the Dallas Morning News.

In Texas, political correctness is a "negative buzzword" used by "native Texans who are somewhat alarmed or concerned that Texas today is a lot different than Texas twenty or thirty years ago. …