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Public editor: The trouble with satire, and a 'political wife'

Sophie Grégoire, wife of Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau, presents to a group of women elementary school teachers in Toronto on Feb. 21, 2013.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

There are many comments online and a number in my public editor inbox today about two articles in Saturday's paper. The first issue is Tabatha Southey's column, a satirical look at some of the strange issues the Pope might have had to deal with and why he might not want to deal with them. She included a tongue-in-cheek section about the possible papal response to the difficult sexual/gender issues that might arise with the recent discovery by scientists of a sea slug with a disposable penis. While a number of readers found the column extremely witty, a few others were offended and suggested she wouldn't write the same thing about other religious leaders. The headline on the column in print was: "The real reason the Pope is punching out." The online headline was "Satire: The real reason the Pope is quitting – a disposable penis?" Satire is very hard to pull off in print and it needs some room to show the subtleties of the humour. You understand it better when it sidles up to you rather than jumps up in your face.

Of course there are differences between newspaper and online headlines. Those online tend to get to the point faster and are often more blunt. In this case, the word "Satire" and the question mark explained that this was humour. But was using penis in the headline still too blunt to catch the tone of the satire? I agree with a few readers who thought it was a bit too blunt, but what do you think? Tell us in the comments of this article.

The second issue concerned a profile of Sophie Grègoire that some readers found almost old fashioned. They wondered why The Globe would write about a "political wife." Would there be a similar story on a "political husband?" Even though this is not the United States where political spouses are often as well known as their elected partner, I think there remains an interest in the impact the unelected spouse has on the elected one. But mostly in federal politics. I don't see much interest in local or provincial spouses. Would there be a profile written of a "political husband" at the federal leader level? Certainly Dennis Thatcher, husband of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was an object of interest.

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