Aren't editors a bitch?

Book coverSilman-James Press here is upset all over again with the New York Times for not allowing the title of its book, Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport by two-time U.S. women's chess champion Jennifer Shahade, to contaminate its pages. They had a row about it last year, when the NYT assigned Shahade an op-ed piece and ran a Sunday Styles story but wouldn't actually use the title of her book because of the word bitch. What got Silman-James' blood boiling again was a piece in the August 6 NYT Magazine that was quite comfortable using the word in several ways. The publisher's letter to Times executive editor Bill Keller is after the jump.

August 14, 2006

Mr. Bill Keller, Executive Editor

The New York Times

229 W. 43rd Street

New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Keller:

Your editors, this time those in the Sunday Magazine, have managed to take hypocrisy to a new level. I refer to the Q&A published in the August 6, 2006 issue of the Magazine (“Pops Goes the Feminist”), in which the word “bitch” is used liberally, as in the name of a magazine the article reports about and in describing a certain brand of women.

The New York Times is the very same august publication that last year recklessly censored the name of a new non-fiction book from TWO major articles under the pseudo guise of protecting the sensibilities of its readers. Justifiably, the Chicago Sun-Times bestowed its revered “Pusillanimity Prize” on The New York Times for its unparalleled cowardly act.

On a single day, Nov. 27, 2005, one that should live in newspaper infamy, The New York Times refused to print the name of Jennifer Shahade’s book, Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport, a meditation on the challenges facing women in the male-dominated world of professional chess. Not once, but TWICE, including an Op-Ed article (“All the Right Moves”), which was written by Ms. Shahade AT THE REQUEST OF “THE WEEK IN REVIEW” section, where it was published.

The Times also declined to use the name of Ms. Shahade’s book in “Sex and Chess. Is She a Queen or a Pawn?” an article which appeared in the Sunday Styles section. An editor in that section admitted the omission was “an act of overly zealous concern for readers’ sensitivities,” but a public correction was never published.

But now it is permissible to flaunt a word once so dastardly you dared not print it? Did The Times’ community standards and sense of taste change so radically in the past few months? Or have you finally come to terms in admitting that your moral indignation and egregious conduct of the past must be dispatched and your policies more accurately reflect the world around you?

In any case, The Times still owes Ms. Shahade a public apology for its cavalier misconduct and dismissive censorship. We as her publisher fully expect the same.

Truly yours,

Gwen Feldman

Siles Press (A division of Silman-James Press, Los Angeles)

During last year's episode, the website Lusty Lady counted 732 instances of bitch turning up in the New York Times.

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