Use of profanity
Profanity in student media should only be used after careful consideration. While profanity is not illegal, journalists should ask whether the use of profanity is absolutely essential to the content and context of the story. Will readers understand the story if the profanity is not used? Some people will not read or listen past any profanity. Students should consider other ways to indicate whether a profanity is intended without actually spelling it out (e.g. using asterisks or other symbols).
Staff manual process
• Student editors should develop a case-by-case process for deciding when to use profanity. Students should consider criteria including whether the language is in context and necessary for the story and whether the profanity will overshadow the overall content of the story.
• Student media should be ready to justify their decision with compelling reasoning before printing profanity. In most cases, this means the staff editorial board should carefully weigh the pros and cons and consider all potential fallout.
• The staff manual should outline whether students will provide an editor’s note alongside any content that contains a profanity.
• The staff manual should indicate whether students will use an “Explicit content warning” to alert readers/viewers to profanity (especially relevant in the case of multimedia).
Watch Your Language: Swearing in News Stories, American Journalism Review
Taste, Tone, Profanity, The Washington Post
Respect, National Public Radio
Is there Too Much Swearing in the Guardian? The Guardian
Audio: Using Expletives, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute
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