A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 28, 2014
Breakfast Test (journalism axiom)

Newspapers often apply a “breakfast test”—can a person eating breakfast also read the newspaper without throwing up? The “breakfast test” means that overly graphic photos, for example, should not be published (or, if published, should not be on the front page).

“Breakfast test” has been cited in print since at least 1984. Some newspaper editors, however, believe that what’s new is news, regardless of a “breakfast test.”


Google Books
Written Communication in Family Medicine
By Robert B. Taylor and Katharine A. Munning (Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Task Force on Professional Communication Skills)
New York, NY: Springer-Verlag
1984
Pg. 68:
Newspaper editors recognize this quality of denial when they talk about the “breakfast test”: the question whether an article can safely be read while eating eggs and toast.

Baltimore (MD) Sun
Nudes At 11 Is No News In This Bureau
June 23, 1991|By Mark Guidera
(...)
Our photographers would come back with pictures that could be humorous, humiliating and horrifying of some of the more plump nudists relaxing in the rough on lawn chairs and hammocks after a few cold ones following the Olym-picks sporting events. Running such pictures would not pass that unshakable tenet of the newspaper business: The Breakfast Test.

Google Books
The Best of Rolling Stone:
25 Years of Journalism on the Edge

Edited by Robert Love
New York, NY: Doubleday
1993
Pg. 445:
I was a nice boy, brought up journalistically to pass the Sun‘s “breakfast test,” which forbade imagery that might roil the morning digestion of readers in areas populated by the paper’s owners and top management.

Baltimore (MD) Sun—“You Don’t Say” by John E. McIntyre
The breakfast test
Posted by John McIntyre at 6:31 PM (September 10, 2010)
“The breakfast test” is a term of art in newspaper journalism. It identifies our habitual skittishness about publishing language or images that would make readers spew into their cornflakes as they read the morning paper. Photograph of a dead body? Racy language? Graphic description? An editor will want to know whether they pass the breakfast test.

Google Books
Media Ethics at Work:
True Stories from Young Professionals

Edited by Lee Anne Peck, Guy S Reel
Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press
2013
Pg. 139:
Hillier defended the photo’s publication but noted that the staff had been concerned that the photo “wouldn’t pass the ‘breakfast test,’ meaning it was too disturbing to see on the front page of the paper.”

Denver (CO) Post
June 3, 2013, 8:00 pm
Sneak peek: Back surgery and the ‘breakfast test’
By Linda Shapley
We have a phrase in journalism that’s often referred to as the “breakfast test.” The thought goes, if a reader will be repulsed by the newspaper while sitting at the breakfast table, then perhaps that’s not the first thing to display on the front page.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Tuesday, October 28, 2014 • Permalink