Two-Way Street

What to Do with (Important) Cuss Words?


There was a debate throughout newsrooms this week ... do you flat out use a cuss word or not?

Of course we're talking about the Goldman Sachs hearing and Sen. Carl Levin's repeated use of an S-bomb phrase.

Journalistically the actual use of the word is valid: It is central to how a Goldman employee

Sen. Carl Levin
Photo: Getty Images

really felt about a certain deal ... the profane nature of the remark drives the point home. And it's a U.S. senator making the point.

But you don't want to throw profanity in people's face. It's impolite and in most cases  unnecessary.

Nevertheless, opinions will differ, and you saw the disagreements across the media spectrum.

Some avoided it all together, like one of our partners. They just referred to it as a "vulgarity." Others just straight out used the term—even some wire services, which isn't usual and can be a problem for those of us who pick up automatic feeds.

Cable networks going with the live broadcast were kind of stuck ... who'd have thought you'd need a delay on a Senate hearing? But there was a lot of bleeping on playbacks, both in cable and, of course, broadcast news.

We—along with many other news outlets—decided to go with the asterisk solution, at least on those stories that were manually, rather than automatically, put together. It's the middle ground. And one with which we're comfortable.