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The 119 Words You Can't Say On WGN Radio

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Mar 10, 2010 5:00PM

2010_03_10_WGN.jpg The local mediasphere is abuzz this morning after Robert Feder posted this long list of 119 words that staff and reporters at WGN 720 AM (owned by the Tribune Company) can't say on the air. Why? Because Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels said so. Some of the examples on the list make sense; they're either redundant ("Close proximity"), cliche ("The fact of the matter" or "Giving 110%"), or unprofessional, folksy sayings ("White stuff," "up there"). Some, though, don't make as much sense. Words like "officials," "authorities," and the "allegations/alleged/reportedly" combo make the list as does "vehicle." We do agree with Feder that this reeks of micro-managing but we don't share his outrage.

It may have been misguided, but Michaels was trying to shape up output. While he may have other pressing matters, it doesn't strike us as particularly egregious that he should do something like this. Most - if not all - of us have worked for a boss like Michaels before, someone who micro-manages and nitpicks at details. Who hasn't read a detailed memo from the boss's office, rolled his/her eyes, and thought, "Don't they have anything better to do?" We've seen worse. And that Michaels would be involved in an effort to control something isn't all that surprising either. He was part of the controversy that resulted in Steve Rhodes' resignation from NBC Chicago's web team (specifically, a post by Rhodes that put Michaels' name in close proximity to alongside "rubber penis").

What's more disturbing to us is the alleged supposed request from WGN news director Charlie Meyerson. According to Feder:

But Meyerson takes it a step further, directing his staff to keep tabs on each other’s compliance: They’re to report any on-air infractions by their co-workers, making sure to note the precise time and date on “bingo cards” he provided that contain a random assortment of Michaels’ forbidden words. If you ask me, that’s just plain creepy.

Well...yeah. That is creepy. Reminding your coworker, "Hey, you said one of the no-no's on the air, might want to watch it," is one thing. But asking your workers to keep tabs and report on each other? At least he introduced the "bingo card" element to make it fun. Pretty soon, we'll just start referring to the station's HQ as "Minitrue."