Why we allow profanity in our stories
If you read the North Texas Daily regularly, you may have noticed an uptick in our body copy’s profanity this semester. Through social media, professors, journalists, readers and students have discussed whether it’s appropriate for our newspaper – or any – to run swear words in print or online stories.
After reading these comments and emails, I want to let all of you know that I understand your concerns. I would like to explain my thoughts and reasoning behind our policy.
Our policy dictates that only in a quote from a source can profanity be included in the story; writers are not allowed to use these words in their own prose. Any reference, however, to a sexual act – even if it’s in a quote from a source – will be edited out. In the case of a lewd, sexual reference, editors have to paraphrase or even omit the words. Additionally, slurs are not allowed in our copy.
If someone says, “I’m tired of this bullshit,” that’s okay to use, because the word “bullshit” is how that person has decided to express their grief. If a person says they want to have sex with another person, and they say, “I want to [explicit] them,” the word will be omitted as you see here.
Then, the editors will likely remove the quote altogether and have the writer in their own prose express the person’s goal. If a source calls another person a slur, like “c–t,” “d–k” or “f–kboy,” editors will omit that, because there is no place for offensive slurs like that.
I certainly understand that profane language makes some readers uncomfortable. It’s different when you read it than when you say it. I’m not denying that. But the reality of our world is that people use swear words in their everyday speech. Because journalists are supposed to limit their judgment about people, I encourage Daily editors to allow writers to include their sources’ complete speech when at all possible.
Again, no references to sexual contact, body parts or slurs about others. There is no need for name calling. This may not be the “proper” style for prestigious newspapers, but people do, in fact, curse.
In a recent story, “Authorities: Too much public urination on Fry,” a local bartender said, “When you do that, I call the cops. Like fuck that shit! You’re not peeing on my car.”
We ran that quote because those words, “fuck” and “shit,” were not referring to sex and were not slurring anyone. In my mind, you can hear this man yelling his point. It’s his speech, so we allowed it to run.
We don’t put words in our stories without thinking about them. This is our policy, but rules can be changed. I hope to hear from you, the reader, on how you feel about reading these words.
Thank you for reading.
Featured Image: File Photo.
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