Guardian of propriety

Today’s post left matters unsettled for my esteemed colleague Elizabeth:

I'm not sure what your final thought is here. Should I

a) Let a commenter say "Starbucks' coffee sucks"

b) Post the comment, but insert asterisks, as in "Starbucks' coffee s***s"


 c) Deep-six the comment on moral grounds in spite of the fact that the commenter will always think I did so because I personally adore Starbucks' coffee.

Also, wouldn't the terrorists say they were claiming credit for the crime as opposed to responsibility? Doesn't to report that more accurately reflect what they said?

I’m in agreement with Kathy Schenck’s post on Words to the Wise at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: We who blog for newspaper sites and have the authority to screen comments also have a responsibility to uphold civility. Therefore we do not permit comments that are profane or obscene; that maker personal attacks or insults; or that indulge in racial, ethnic, sexist, homophobic or religious slurs.

It turns out that a substantial number of readers in Milwaukee appreciate being spared loudmouth, imbecilic outbursts.

But I’ve still left the sucks issue unsettled. So:

The copy desk upholds house style in staff copy. I don’t use x sucks, and I keep it out of staff copy. If it were used in a direct quote, the quote would have to add something substantial to the article to be included.

Blog usage is more freewheeling, but I’d advise against x sucks there, too, because it’s a childish vulgarism.

But it’s not profane or obscene. If it appeared in a comment that was otherwise unobjectionable, I would let it go — and not try to euphemize it with asterisks or dashes or other devices.

As to terrorists and credit/responsibility. I think that the argument is that yes, they claim credit; but if we say it that way, it implies that we think that the action is creditable. Responsibility is a neutral term and therefore preferable.



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