August 22, 2007

All the news that's shit to print

For the second time in a year, the New York Times today prints the word "shit." The word appears in a quote from an anonymous message left on the answering machine of Elliot Spitzer's father: "There is not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son can do about it."

I have been arguing for 15 years — ever since my friend Chip Rowe raised the issue in his zine (remember zines?) — that newspapers that value polite language over reporting facts are committing a journalistic sin. I'm not saying newspaper writers should employ swear words themselves, or go out of their way to find quotes that contain them, but if a subject's words are noteworthy enough to be reported than it is the basic responsibility of the newspaper to report the actual words. Withholding important information to protect the delicate sensibilities of a hypothetical reader is a violation of the basic principles of journalism. Either it's news that Dick Cheney told someone to "fuck off" or it's not.

Here's more on the history of shit in the Times and other media outlets. (Not counting two occasions when the Times inadvertently referred to "t-shits.")

For the record, the word "fuck" has appeared in the Times only once, in part 5 of the complete Starr Report

Posted by Daniel Radosh


For completists, I'll note that last year's "shit" quote appeared twice, once in the original article and again a few days later in a Tom Friedman column about it.

Holy Shit!

I can't believe you picked up on this, Radosh! Here is what I just posted at a HuffPo (I guess great minds stink alike):

The real story here is that the NY Times ran the word "shit" in a news story. (Aug 21 Nation Edition pg A16: "There is not a goddamn thing you phony, psycho piece-of-shit son can do about it.")

Been reading that paper for decades and I never saw that.

Years ago when Giuliani lead a mob of off-duty cops in a chant of "Bullshit!" The NYT simply described it as a "barnyard epitaph." I shit you not.

I hope they said epithet -- though epitaph would have been not inappropriate.

Hey, I remember zines! Weird. Furry little things always making a mess. No batteries though, that was cool.

I also remember this: the first time Gawker took on this mainstreaming foul language issue. Fuckin' shoddy analysis.

Actually third time in a year.

When they wrote an article recently recalling the thing with Giuliani and the mob of off-duty cops, they did say "A block away from City Hall, Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery address, twice calling Mr. Dinkins's proposal 'bullshit.'"

July 22nd...



A friend writes: "Funny that 'fuck' and 'bukkake' have appeared in the NYT the same number of times."

"not inappropriate"


I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that they've never printed the word "cunt."

...or "cocksucker."

I want these motherfuckin' obscenities outa this motherfuckin' Times!

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