The Most Unfunny American In China

The American editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post, one of Asia's largest English language daily newspapers, is in a difficult, and rather humorous, predicament.

Around 80 of his employees are petitioning for his dismissal after he fired two of their colleagues last week. His beef with the newly unemployeds was over a gag-newletter they produced to celebrate a long-term colleague's retirement. Apparently this sort of mock-tribute is traditional is some newsroom cultures. The front page of the joke-paper in question had a headline that ran:

You're A C##t, But You're A Good C##t

The editor, Mark Clifford, followed up his firing with an angry email to his staff that read, in part:

There is no room here for people who flout journalistic ethics of fairness and accuracy, no room for people who treat the company's name and property as if it were their own. And there are basic standards of decency that need to be respected in any modern company, standards that are enshrined in our code of ethics.

This position sounds reasonable but apparently it was not much appreciated by the staff. One staffer said:

For Clifford to take the moral high ground and to treat us like children is really insulting. It’s the nature of leaving pages. They are simply a good-humored prank which goes on in any [journalism] office environment and it’s ridiculous to take a moral stand on something like a leaving page.

The word c##t is certainly offensive, and I think many would agree. This particular quibble might have more to do with inter-office politics than a breach of established ethics. Poor, humorless Mr. Clifford may just get fired for taking his job too seriously.

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