Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Watch Your $%&#@*! Language

According to the Reluctant Blogger, "The New York Times may be the best newspaper in the United States, but it also can be one of the fustiest Nancy Nices of journalism."

In Sunday's Book Review, an Alison McCulloch review of Harry F. Frankfurt's "On Truth" tiptoed around the title of his previous book "On Bullshit" with metaphors ("manure," "steaming piles," "heaps of scat").

Should the Grey Lady (or for that matter, papers) sanitize its content?

While the use of vulgar language most colorfully applies to the alternative weekly - they've single-handledly been a reflection of the relaxation of old standards - the Times has certainly printed these words before.

Should the Times have avoided using the title of Frankfurt's book?

One argument is that the Sunday paper is read by a wider audience, one that many not react favorably upon the term. Another is that, as the "paper of record," the correct title of the book should have been used. After all, if it can be seen at a bookstore, why not in a book review?

While I often find that vulgar terms have no place in editorial content (not op-ed), I support the use of unsanitized quotes and names. In my opinion as a onetime editor, a newspaper can report on something without it creeping into its own voice. Op-ed pieces reflect an author, but news content reflects a paper.

How can the "paper of record" be exactly that if it blacks out language like a government release of formerly classified documents?

What's more, what if the title of Frankfurt's book was actually "Bull****", a veritable statement about censorship?

Sometimes it's just better for the messenger to tell it like it is - and not worry about impending death.

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