When Do Newspapers Print Profanity?

Slate investigates:

Editors weigh the newsworthiness of the event in question against concerns about community standards. Readers can be just as distracted when a newspaper clumsily sidesteps profanity as when a paper uses it; it's up to the editor to decide whether the journalistic purpose of the story is best served by bluntness or decorum.

According to the Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler, his conversation with executive editor Leonard Downie yesterday clarified the paper's long-standing policy on the use of profanity on its pages. "The paper doesn't do it unless it's exceptionally newsworthy and necessary for readers to understand and make a judgment" on the story, Getler says. Downie approved the A4 profanity himself, according to Getler, because Cheney's remarks were made in public and "not in a casual way." Getler notes, though, that had the story been on the front page, the specific language likely would have been alluded to or pushed past the jump.

Addendum (8/9/2014): Should Slate change its profanity policy? Ten years later, three editors debate the issue.

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