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Newsroom Swearing: Special Report

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Note: The following post is about the news media, and therefore contains extreme profanity.

In my latest Wire Watch, I made the offhanded comment that the scene in which Haynes is reprimanded for swearing in the newsroom was the first element in the Sun story that didn’t ring true to me. (I write this having just come out of a Time Arts meeting, most of which would make a sailor blush.) Regular commenter Rottin’ in Denmark replied:

As for the ‘false note’ of the profanity scene, I don’t know how things are at Time, but I used to work at The Seattle Times, and the PC police were in full effect. Full-day sexual harassment training, liberal internet no-nos policy (I got flagged for reading nerve.com once), and weird provisions such as not being able to bring alcohol onto work premises, not even a bottle of wine as a gift.

Well, little did I know that this would become a controversy raging across the Internet! At Slate, Jeffrey Goldberg (independent of my post) shared my view:

The low moment came when Klebanow warned Gus against cursing in the newsroom. Ridiculous. I’m not saying that once or twice between John Peter Zenger and now, some shmuck in some newsroom somewhere warned a colleague about the use of foul language. But for fuck’s sake, that was the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen in The Wire’s five seasons.

Now the debate has been taken up at favorite media-news blog Romenesko, where readers are weighing in with their own stories of unfettered, or severely fettered, cursing in the newsroom. As of now, they seem to be running in favor of swearing-is-allowed–but don’t try it at certain small papers in Maine, nor should you use the phrase “master of my domain” at the San Bernardino County Sun.

In any event, as I originally said to Rottin’, my problem with the scene was a pretty minor quibble, and I think journalists have been oversensitive about the season’s take on the media. Curse our work, I say, but don’t take away our cursing.

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