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The ‘F” Word In Our News Publications

July 17, 2017

When it comes to high standards for grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary there are three publications that stand out.  The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Economist.   I am a stickler for having reading material that treats the person holding the publication as an adult.    An adult with some taste, and common sense.

So I was truly upset when The Economist–in their July 1st, 2017 edition–used the “F” word once in a lead paragraph to a story, and referenced that word in a separate column.   One does not need to be a prude or conservative to get uppity about this.  Good taste is not something that can be replaced once the standards are removed.

One page 23 of the United States edition a story about the murderous streets of Baltimore started out with a quote from a former gang member about the process of killing people.  “I am going to kill who-ever’s got a ******* problem with it.”

There is no news worthy quality or purpose for having that word in print.  The line could have been worked for the thuggish quality it was meant to underscore without using a word that is simply low class–even though too many regularly have it in their repertoire.

Then on page 60 in the Schumpeter column this line appears.

“I like to use the acronym “WTF”.

I get it that this nation has slipped somewhere about par with the curb of the average street.  I understand the average bar in America is not filled with folks thinking about self respect when they talk.  I get it that too many stand-up comics think they are only funny when cussing.  I get it that in any mall in the country one can find a ten-year-old talking trash out loud with friends in ways that did not happen 45 years ago.

But I have long thought there was at least a place of refuge in the printed words of my favorite publications.  A place where journalists of note conveyed the bigger truths about the world and did so with ideas and words that resonated for the ones who subscribed.  

So I feel let down by The Economist.    I feel that once again the lowest common denominator has taken yet one more place where thinking people use to inhabit.  

I still hold to standards.  The Manual Of Style and Usage from The New York Times remains on my desk in the shelved section.  And I use it for this blog. They permit, with editors oversight, adding (expletive) in place of a word if it is material to the story and its meaning.  But that is a very rare thing to be used.

In 1896, Adolph Ochs proclaimed that The New York Times would present the news “in language that is parliamentary in good society.’   In other words, keep it clean,

And so it goes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. pattilynn9 permalink
    July 18, 2017 5:47 AM

    To quote Joe Biden. Oh, nevermind.

    Write a letter to the editor. They need to hear all well-reasoned objections.

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