City Desk

When Bad Words Are Fit To Print

This man used a very naughty word in The Washington Post!

When does a Washington Post story get to use curse words? Never, if you're following the Eugene Meyer Principles, which were delivered in a 1935 speech and the Post has been following ever since. A guiding light has long been this principle: "What it prints shall be fit reading for the young as well as the old."

A recent piece about the wrangling over the D.C. Council's tax hike for the rich doesn't adhere, however:

Before [Phil] Mendelson could finish his sentence, [David] Catania shot back, “I don’t give a shit what you think.”

[Kwame] Brown pleaded for order, but [Jack] Evans, another opponent of a tax increase, snapped at Mendelson, calling his objection “bullshit.”

When I checked in with Metro editor Vernon Loeb, he told me, "I wasn't involved in that decision," and referred me to a Post flack, who didn't respond to a request for comment.

Washington City Paper's guiding philosophy obviously doesn't have a problem with bad words in print—especially if they're illuminating to a story. And presumably, Post reporters encounter far more cursing than ever makes the paper.

For the record, it seems utterly appropriate that the naughty language made it through the copy desk in this case: It illuminates the political tensions that were at the heart of the A1 story. (The cursing, for print readers, came after the jump). But it'd be nice, all the same, to hear the paper's leaders explain the details of when the Meyer Principles rule, and when they take a back seat to news value. We'll update when more details are offered.

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • http://www.washingtondcevangelists.com Michael

    Could you not use asterisks and still get the point across? Your moral standards maybe higher or lower than others, but not everyone agrees that you should use shit over sh*t. You could even use [bleep] or [bleeping] to get the point across. Nonetheless, could you not use your journalistic writing skills to illuminate the political tensions without using curse words?

...