The New York Times Announces an Editorial Policy Change.
[Originally published September 24, 2012.]
The New York Times has been a steadfast beacon of truthful reporting since printing began in 1851. Our slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” applies well even to this day, though our definition of “fitness” has evolved as decades have progressed. It is with this in mind that we are making an important announcement. In a medium that not only prides itself on conciseness, but is rooted in it, it is absurd to waste entire strings of words and even sentences avoiding a particular word. We’re going to print it now. It’s “fuck.”
There will, of course, be rules regulating our use of the word, as with all journalistic style. We won’t be using it, for example, in the sentence “Paul Krugman is a motherfucking badass.” Unless, of course, someone starts a Tumblr by that name, in which case we will use it, and spare the reader the construction “a Tumblr named for Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman punctuated with an intensifier depicting incest of the Oedipal variety.” Because that’s stupid, and everyone knows it.
Which brings us to the subject of Tumblr blogs in general, because if we must dedicate a “Style” article to every third Tumblr in existence (and we must) “fuck” is an integral part of this geography. And so we will use it there. We won’t use it in the phrase “The fucking New York Times paywall” because that would require acknowledging the highly flawed and unnecessary scheme of ours in something other than an advertisement, and that we simply will not do.
And when we choose to profile a band or a book with the word, because we live in an era where that happens now, we’re just going to write it. We won’t say, “a band with an unprintable name” and come up with wink-y article titles that dance around the subject, like “Group With Procreative Name Is Pro-Creative.” We’ll just print “fuck” and move on, like grown-ups.
This new policy will also allow us the opportunity to print Neil deGrasse Tyson’s bi-weekly rants about Pluto’s status as a planet in full, a welcome change from the tempered and toothless versions we’ve presented so far.
We won’t use it in the “Weddings/Celebrations” section, because that would be crass, even though our readers know every article could accurately conclude with the happy couple going to take part in the very act depicted by the word we have now resolved to print on occasion.
We will use it in quotations, titles, and excerpts. We’ll rarely use it as an adjective. After all, we aren’t fucking Gawker.
We do this because if our readers can handle headlines like “Thousands Dead and Mangled in Massacre” they can handle the word “fuck” once in a while. We do this because it’s ridiculous to live in a profane world with no profanity. It isn’t some Unforgivable Curse from New York Times Best-seller Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Printing the word “fuck” isn’t going to condemn anyone to death. We cover homicides, bombings, earthquakes, and the rest of the staggering list of terrors perpetrated on humans by one another and by God. Surely the public finds these concepts more upsetting than a simple word. No more fecklessness by fuck-less-ness. We are the fucking New York Times. We print “fuck” now.
P.S. The monosyllabic vulgarity for a woman’s genitals is still completely off limits.
SUGGESTED READSA Short Item about the Future
by Tim Carvell (1/10/2000)
Vignettes That Won’t Make It Into the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary.”
by Tom Ruprecht (2/1/2000)
Recent Newspaper Headlines Explained (Part Two)
by Marny Requa (1/13/1999)
RECENTLYThe Association for the Study of Romantic Letters Presents the First Annual Conference On How to Tell Samantha I Really Like Her
by Jason Edward Harrington (7/28/2014)
Hungover Bear and Friends: Saved By Criticism
by Ali Fitzgerald (7/28/2014)
Teddy Wayne’s Unpopular Proverbs: Hay
by Teddy Wayne (7/28/2014)