Editor's Column: What’s our underwear policy?

Having spent all weekend looking at Saddam Hussein in his underwear, Island County public officials are no doubt wondering what their chances are of someday being pictured in their underwear in the Whidbey News-Times.

Frankly, that’s a difficult question to answer. This newspaper has never had an underwear policy and was taken by surprise when our big brothers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, not to mention all the TV news channels, considered a man in his underwear to be the most newsworthy worldwide item of the weekend. Obviously, living here in a backwater of modern journalism, we didn’t recognize that wearing underwear is such a big deal.

Still, we would not print a picture of a county commissioner, for example, in his underwear just because he’s wearing underwear. That may have been been sufficient justification for showing Saddam Hussein in his underwear, but big media have different standards than community newspapers. Our underwear policy, adopated at 8:30 Monday morning after several seconds of thought, is that Island County public officials not only have to be wearing underwear, but the underwear must pertain to some actual news event for it to be considered newsworthy.

For example, let’s say that environmentalists in the state Legislature pass the Underwear Management Act, requiring that all citizens wear clean underwear at all times. After all, dirty underwear releases noxious gasses into the atmosphere and, when washed, the runoff ends up tainting Puget Sound. It would be up to local jurisdictions, such as Island County, to adopt underwear regulations suitable for their own communities. Island County commissioners would no doubt opt for boxer shorts, as they are less restrictive than jockey shorts. So if someone brought us a picture of a commissioner in his jockey shorts, it would be newsworthy because he’s flagrantly violating the Island County Boxer Shorts Ordinance. That’s one way a commissioner could end up being pictured on page 1 of the Whidbey News-Times in his underwear.

We would also print an underwear picture if the commissioner himself makes an issue of it. A picture of a commissioner at home in his underwear, in the same pose as Saddam Hussein, would not be considered news because it’s a private moment. But if the same commissioner shows up at a public hearing wearing only his underwear, then it would be news. The commissioners are presently taking a lot of criticism about their wetlands regulations, so don’t be surprised if at least one attends the next public hearing in his underwear. Then the headline becomes, “Commissioner wears underwear to meeting,” rather than, “Voters jeer at county wetland policy.” Distraction is one of the chief tools of any successful politician.

We hope Island County officials will take comfort in this underwear policy, which requires a direct link to actual news before we’ll print an underwear picture. And it’s one expose’ we hope we’ll never have to publish.

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