The Fucking Cussing Debate

Nancy, writing in Romenesko’s letters section:

I no longer work in newspapers, but here are a few details I can recall: Low to non-existent raises for a workforce that returned 23 percent profits; a filthy, dusty newsroom that was cleaned once a decade whether it needed it or not (that is, when were weren’t encouraged to clean it ourselves); a crappy front-end system hated by all but, needless to say, the one from the low bidder; a Christmas party that dwindled from a catered lunch to a carry-in potluck; an assistant metro editor charged with arranging coverage of an eight-week legislative session with a freelance budget of $300; and oh, so many more.

As many have noted, swearing can be an outlet for frustration and anger. With management like this, we’re lucky swearing and the occasional kick aimed at yet another broken desk drawer was the worst of it. I mean, it could have been the proverbial disgruntled employee.

You should also read her posts over atThe New Package, where we talk about The Wire. This whole argument at Romenesko got started because on The Wire, which is presently addressing some of the journalism issues we talk about here (in ways I applaud and ways with which I quibble) one fictional (and pussified) editor at the Baltimore Sun upbraided a more old-school type for using profanity in the newsroom, setting off a spate of wankery and nonsense that’s drawing about ten times the comment of anything else on the damn show.

Look. Every few months this comes around again on Romenesko, the delicate snowflakes get all het up about decorum, and the hardcore types have to remind people that this is not, recent events notwithstanding, a job for the faint of heart, that there are mornings you’re down at the morgue watching them peel a burnt dude out of a crispy car, and if you can’t say what you have to say about that to keep from throwing up, because somebody can’t tell the difference between honest-to-god harrassment and a colleague blowing off steam, then something’s out of whack.

None of that’s the point, though. It’s not that it’s some kind of iron man contest, or that you have to be the foulest mouth in the room to somehow prove your street cred. Certainly you don’t have to be, I’ll be more than happy to fill that job for you, because I believe in the right word for the job and sometimes the right word is motherfucker. It’s not that you can’t be bothered by something, either; I once had a co-worker mightily offended by foul language and so, in her presence, I made an effort (not always successful) not to speak like a fucking sailor, which is not called being a pussy, it’s called being polite. None of that is what this whole debate is about.

What it’s about is how much we value a sense of detachment and perspective, the kind of detachment, and perspective, for example, that lead to Nancy’s point above, which is that we never really do address the actual obscenities in the equation, but everybody’s got an opinion about whether or not you can say “fuck” in the newsroom. Or, for that matter, in the newspaper itself. It’s just so much easier to talk about the one-syllable curses, after all.

A.

7 thoughts on “The Fucking Cussing Debate

  1. I’ve never been involved with newspapers as anything more than a reader so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about but get rid of the goddamned J-Schools.
    And make it mandatory that every reporter and editor has a bottle of cheap scotch in his/her desk drawer. “Ink-stained wretches,” y’know.
    Like everything else, I doubt that there was ever a “golden age” of newspapers but, as with so much, corporatization is sterilizing newsrooms.
    And a modest proposal: Print reporters should be barred for life from appearing on teevee.
    .

  2. ashley says:

    It’s just that you need to learn to do more with less.

  3. pansypoo says:

    i found a 1966 milwaukee paper section-green sheet. and i was just reminded how much more was in papers back then. tho the comic strips sucked. it was so BIG.
    grandma was a crap rat. found a box of old wrapping paper she saved.

  4. racymind says:

    From someone who has had to sit in front of a chief corporate officer and explain my language, more than once… I understand.

  5. Athenae says:

    pansy, Mr. A could wax nostalgic with you about the Green Sheet. He loved that thing.
    A.

  6. pansypoo says:

    oh yes. i still miss hunting for the green. it wasn’t a hint of green tho.
    i wonder if i still have that box of them in the basement. mr. a could have them.

  7. Gidget Commando says:

    I believe in the right word for the job and sometimes the right word is motherfucker.
    That is, without a doubt, the best case for the use of profanity I’ve ever seen. I’ve said versions of it before, but none so elegant as that one. I’ll be quoting you a lot.

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