Well, there goes another of my silly rules at the local newspaper.
Right there on the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal is a reference (or refer in the jargon) to a story inside: “BOEHNER TELLS REID TO F— OFF.”
Now, I’m no prude and have used a profanity or two in my time, but when I was editor I overruled the AP Stylebook on this one. “If a full quote that contains an obscenity, profanity or vulgarity cannot be dropped but there is no compelling reason for the offensive language, replace the letters of the offensive word with hyphens, using only an initial letter,” the Stylebook advises.
My reasoning was that we were editing a family newspaper and every freaking member of the damn family already knew precisely what letters were excised. “This is no game show,” I would exclaim, “and Vanna White ain’t the editor.” If the word were necessary to the context of the story and the ability to convey the news value, then use the word, not some flimsy hyphens. That’s like wrapping a nude in Saran Wrap and calling it decent.
I instructed editors to eliminate the word and substitute in parens the word “expletive.” Hell, everyone still knew what it meant, but at least we weren’t fooling ourselves … as much.
Over on page 4A the headline (hed in the jargon) writer had to cozy up to the whole point of the story by printing: “Boehner to Reid: an anatomically impossible order.”
Well, I confess I wasn’t a purist on this point. I did not stop Jim Day when he penned this editorial cartoon:
Besides, I’m always offended when I pass that bank of slots and hear them shouting: “Wheel … of … Fortune,” over and over and bleeping over.