Friday, May 13, 2005

"A policy on dirty words"

Denver's alt-weekly has the low-down on the Boulder Daily Camera's explicit expletive policy.
A few weeks back, staffers at the Boulder Daily Camera received an e-mail with a grabby subject: "A Policy on Dirty Words." In the memo, editor Sue Deans began in a general way, declaring that "using profanity, scatology or racial and ethnic slurs in the Daily Camera is not a good thing. Those words stop readers in their tracks and detract from the quality of our news coverage and writing." Then she got specific about the lingo she preferred to avoid, beginning with "the 'seven words' made famous by George Carlin, which as you may know are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits." More surprising, however, was her opposition to what she described as "other less-graphic references that you might yell at your kids for using, including but not limited to crap, screw, blow, and in some instances, ass or suck, depending on the context, and other double-entendres."
Are "crap" and "screw" worse than "ass"? Hmmm.
Deans's memo rejects what she calls "the 'hangman game,' where we leave out some of the letters," and advises reporters to "write around the word wherever possible, or if necessary in a quote, use ellipsis to indicate we've left something out." In her view, she would "much prefer that writers and editors spend their time on better journalism, spelling and grammar rather than trying to slip naughty words into the paper."
An admirable goal, to be sure. Good luck with that!


At 1:06 PM, May 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It makes you wonder how often they come across obscenities there. I've only had to worry about them once since I started editing, and I went by the AP rule.

At 12:15 PM, May 16, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

I've mentioned this before, but I was shocked when I got my first job editing for a daily and learned that "sucks" wasn't allowed in the paper. That went a long way in helping me notch up my sensitivity to such things.

I'll occasionally come across "ass," "sucks" and other not-so-offensive words. I still run them by an editor every time. Sometimes they make it; sometimes they don't.

I figure it's my job to flag the word but not to make the call.


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