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There's no need to use the F word in the newspaper

By Scott Tibbs, October 5, 2011

The Associated Press style book instructs journalists to avoid using profanity, unless that profanity is necessary for the story. This style book is used to teach journalism students in the same building where the Indiana Daily Student newsroom is located. Why, then, did the IDS feel it necessary to include the F word in the top news headline in the September 29 print edition, directly above the IDS logo?

This is not just a newspaper that is read by college students. This is a newspaper read by many in the community and is distributed throughout downtown Bloomington. Do you really think this is appropriate content for the front page of the second largest newspaper in Monroe County - a student newspaper that often has better coverage of local events than even the city's professional newspaper?

This is not new. I counted eight uses of the F word between March and August of 2010 alone.

The obscenity could have easily been replaced, as it was not necessary for the story. The offending line could have easily read as follows: "A plea for someone to call the police echoed down the hall from the freshman victim's room. 'I think my roommate committed suicide.'"

Publishing obscenities in the newspaper is not hip or edgy or cool. It is juvenile. This is something I expect to see on a poorly-disciplined teenager's Facebook page, not in one of the most highly respected college newspapers in the nation.

Think about this for a minute: If your body of work includes publishing obscenities in your articles, how do you think this will impact your future employment prospects, especially when many newspapers are already having difficulties and will have many qualified applicants for a position? Do you think this will help or hurt chances of getting the position you want?

Publishing the F word on the front page - especially in the prominent position of the paper's top headline - reflects badly on the IDS. Think about what you publish before you publish it.