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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Less Morford

Behold, for Tim Blair brings us tidings of great joy: Mark Morford has been suspended from SFGate., the Web site of The San Francisco Chronicle, suspended three staffers for a column that the site's boss said was "grotesquely outside the standards that we have."

Robert Cauthorn, vice president of digital media for The Chronicle, suspended writer Mark Morford, news editor Vlae Kershner and features editor Amy Moon for a week for their role in the incident.

Grotesque? Morford? Say it ain't so! Morford's been grotesque for as long as I've been aware of his pathetic existence. What could he have done to actually step over the line?:

Morford writes an edgy column called Morning Fix that appears daily on the Web site and goes out to about 13,000 people via e-mail.

The column typically offers humorous and controversial takes on offbeat news stories culled from The Chronicle and wire services. On Friday, Morford wrote what struck Cauthorn as a particularly outlandish take on an Associated Press story from Philadelphia: "Female teacher accused of sex with 13-year-old boy while friend watched."

"I riffed off of that (story)," said Morford, whose offending column is no longer online. "I wrote that from my own experience as a teenage boy, we shouldn't jump on this as a bad thing in every case. . . . I would bet that most teenage boys in this country would say that given the choice, this would be a positive adventure for many of them. . . . For teenage boys, there are things far worse than having older females perform a sex act in a parking lot."

Here's where I'm suppose to feign shock and indignation, and accuse Morford of approving of child molestation. Er, actually, he sort of is. But he's also right: many thirteen-year-old boys would consider this "a positive adventure". That's why we don't let thirteen-year-olds loose on the landscape. And, needless to say, we don't look the other way when adult women---teachers, for pity's sake---fulfill their desires.

But, really, for Morford this is pretty tame, and I'm surprised they dinged him for it. Maybe the above quote is considerably sanitized.

Here's something I wouldn't have guessed in a million years:

Morford started at SF Gate building the home page. When Kershner, a former regional editor at The Chronicle, moved to SF Gate two years ago, he said he reassigned Morford to writing columns.

I wonder what "building the home page" means. I wouldn't have pegged Morford as a web geek. Learning to program a computer requires a certain amount of discipline. (I'm sure Morford's into discipline, just not that kind.)

Oh, but there were other people suspended with him. I wonder why?

Kershner said Morford filed the offending column Thursday and Moon edited it. Moon declined to comment. Kershner said Morford also forwarded him a copy.

"I looked at it, rolled my eyes and passed it on," Kershner said.

Hot damn! That's some editing! Of course, if there were any editing at SFGate, Morford's crap would never have seen the light of day.

Hold onto your stomach contents for this next bit:

"Mark has been described a few ways -- as a Lenny Bruce character, or as a Generation X Hunter S. Thompson, or as a liberal redneck," Kershner said. "He has a following, but he's always close to the edge."

Would that his following follow him off the edge.

A liberal redneck? No. I'm a liberal redneck. Morford's more like a red-assed yellowbelly, or a superannuated two year old who's just discovered his own tackle and can't stop playing with it, or a hippy preserved forever in some sticky substance on the floor of the bummer tent, or a serial killer of the English language, or...well, you make up one. It's fun!

Morford concedes that "maybe it was flawed."

"It's an edgy column," he said. "It's going to go over the line. I expect to miss. I expect it to be yanked every now and then if it crosses the line."

Speaking of language crimes, does anyone else remember when the word "edgy" described a person who trembled and chain-smoked and sweat a lot? (Hmmm, come to think of it, that probably describes Morford too.)

Tim's commenters are beating Morford black and blue. Some choice quotes:

I have to say, I love it when corporate America thinks they have to do something edgy and is then shocked to discover what edgy actually means these days. -- Mike G.

and, summing it up pithily:

The SF Chron has standards? Who knew? -- Andrea Harris

Knew? I never even dreamed.