Today’s award for vaguest news story goes to CNN, which presents this report from California’s KFSN about a list of "offensive" words taught to students at Tioga Middle School that included "vulgar descriptions for sex acts and slang derogatory names" in a lesson about "inappropriate profanity at school."
During the course of the 1:35 minute report, we hear from parents who are outraged and can’t believe it, even to the point of being dumbfounded. (Seriously. One parent interviewed said, "I was outraged. I couldn’t believe it. I was just dumbfounded.") The school’s principal offered an apology but asserted that "the intent of the lesson was to be proactive and to make sure that our students aren’t making inappropriate choices when they’re on campus."
What makes the piece so compelling is that despite its tone of high moral panic and its concern about the dangers of profanity, we never learn what the words are. Not even a euphemism or a bleeped phrase is thrown in. (The outraged, disbelieving, dumbfounded parent quoted earlier suggests it had something to do with "oral sex.")
We guess it is possible to report a story on offensive words without ever uttering them, since, as Adam Buckman‘s favorite Heroes script doctor wrote, they’re just "Words, words, words." But for clarity’s sake, a news organization can let its non-middle-school-aged viewers in on the central facts of the story.
And if you should want a T-shirt to commemorate this report, CNN.com’s got ’em.