NYT Walkout

The New York Times staff is on a one-day walkout, and I realize I’ve been reading some of that paper every day since school days – UTexas had a subsidized version that was close to free, then they launched their website without paywall, etc. Lots of muscle memory, but I support the workers more than the owners, so I can skip a day or two.

When the Gray Lady Started Wearing Color

Newstand on State Street circa 1996

The New York Times:

Yet the A section of the paper, the daily news section, remained color-averse. It wasn’t until Oct. 16, 1997, that the first color images graced the front page of The Times. (The Times Magazine had used color at various times since 1933.)

Until autumn of that year, New York was the only major city in the nation that did not have a newspaper printing full-color news photographs each day. USA Today had been producing color in its pages since its first issue in 1982. So what took the daily edition of The Times so long

(click here to continue reading When the Gray Lady Started Wearing Color – The New York Times.)

Amusingly, I was a paid focus group member for consultants working for the NYT around this time (probably a couple of months later), and discussed this decision. I still laugh – the focus group was about the digital edition of the NYT, and there was one curmudgeonly older-than-me woman who was sour on everything about it. I mean, every topic brought up she was against. Finally I blurted out, “did you like it when the NYT put color photographs?” and the woman vehemently disagreed with the very thought of color in her newspaper. The consultants who were running the meeting both looked at each other, and scribbled furiously in their notebooks.

The New York Times has shut down its customizable keyword email alerts feature

Daily News
Daily News.

This bummed me out enough that I wrote a complaint (unanswered) to the NYT. I’ve had about 30 of these email alerts, configured over the years for specific topics-of-interest, and I found them extremely useful. There is so much information published every hour, one cannot keep up with constant stream of topics without technological assistance. Even if I only read the New York Times, and I don’t, I doubt I could keep up. Having a customizable keyword search was very useful. Oh well, consumers of news are less and less important to corporate media entities. Google News alerts are ok, but they aren’t as targeted, nor useful.

The New York Times has sunset those custom email alerts to Times stories, that users could tailor based on keywords of their interests. The feature, which met its unceremonious end Tuesday, March 13, was being used by less than half a percent of users, according to a Times spokesperson. From the outside, it didn’t seem like MyAlerts was a huge technical lift to maintain, but “much of the technology powering MyAlerts was built in the early 2000s.”

Ending the feature frees up “resources to invest in new engagement and messaging features that will debut in 2018. We also encourage our readers to sign up for one of over 50 email newsletters.”

(click here to continue reading The New York Times has shut down its customizable keyword email alerts feature ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ » Nieman Journalism Lab.)

The webservice company IFTTT has an applet that purports to emulate this functionality, but as far as I can tell, you can only have one keyword alert at a time which is pretty lame.

Because Paul Krugman Can Argue

QR Code on NYT Magazine cover
QR Code on NYT Magazine cover

Paul Krugman is one of the top reasons I subscribe to the NYT 1

Jonathan Chait makes a good point:

Before Paul Krugman joined the New York Times op-ed page, it was a genteel place. The classic pattern was to promote distinguished reporters to cushy sinecures as columnists. Because they were trained as reporters, not polemicists, they tended to avoid the work of argumentation and simply tell readers what to think.… Krugman, by contrast, came from academia, where the arguments are fierce, and you either bring the data or you go home. As one of the most acclaimed economists of his generation, he arrived at his Times post in 1999 boasting stronger credentials to hold forth on his chosen topic than possibly any other op-ed columnist in history. But Krugman does not rely on his authority. He crafts arguments.

The most remarkable attribute Krugman has brought to the Times is rudeness. The social niceties that accompany his exalted position are utterly lost on him. He does not seek out the company of famous politicians and cannot be courted with flattery or access. He understands that you can’t arrive at truth without explaining why mistaken beliefs are wrong.

Krugman makes a mockery of the prohibition against arguing with his fellow columnists, larding his columns with rebuttals to unnamed subjects who happen to believe things that were advocated on the Times op-ed page earlier in the week. Thomas Friedman writes a column complaining, “Does anyone know what President Obama’s preferred outcome is? Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut?” And the next day, Krugman writes: “Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to ‘centrist’ pundits who won’t admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: ‘Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?’ Mr. Obama: ‘I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.’ Pundit: ‘Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?’ ”

(click here to continue reading Because Paul Krugman Didn’t Keep His Calm – Reasons to Love New York 2011 — New York Magazine.)


  1. weekend edition, but still counts []

links for 2011-03-18

  • Yes. Print subscribers to The New York Times can get free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com on any device, plus the full range of NYTimes apps for your smartphone, tablet and your computer. Free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com is provided to all print subscribers, no matter what type of subscription you have (daily, weekday, Weekender, etc.). You’ll also get free digital access if your home delivery is provided by a third party (rather than by The New York Times directly).
    (tags: media)

NYT defends against Vatican criticism

Follow up on Catholic Church and its newest enemy, journalists, especially at the New York Times

Cardinal William J. Levada, a top Vatican official, leveled harsh criticism at The New York Times today, calling the paper’s news and editorial coverage of a sexual abuse case “deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness.”

The Times has been reporting on how Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, handled pleas from Wisconsin church officials to “defrock a priest who had abused as many as 200 deaf boys from 1950 to 1974.”

Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty told POLITICO that the “stories were based on meticulous reporting and documents, many of them posted on our website.”

“We stand by that reporting,” she said.

Indeed, the Times has included a number of primary documents online. And as a timeline of events clearly shows, the Vatican’s doctrinal office — which Ratzinger ran — suspended a secret trial that could have punished the priest, who was given such leniency because of his declining health.

“The allegations of abuse within the Catholic Church are a serious subject, as the Vatican has acknowledged on many occasions,” McNulty said. “Any role the current pope may have played in responding to those allegations over the years is a significant aspect of this story.”

[Click to continue reading NYT defends against Vatican criticism – Michael Calderone – POLITICO.com]

David Brooks Caught in a Lie Again

You would think the fact checkers of The New York Times would stop liars like David Brooks from publishing factually erroneous columns that embarrass the NYT brand. Apparently not. Differing opinions is one thing, but out and out lies?

Mr Rabbit

Ezra Klein writes:

The factual statements Brooks uses in his argument are wrong. Not arguable, or questionable, or suspicious. Wrong. And since everything else flows from those wrong facts, the rest of the column can’t be taken seriously.

“Reconciliation has been used with increasing frequency,” writes Brooks. “That was bad enough. But at least for the Bush tax cuts or the prescription drug bill, there was significant bipartisan support.” The outcome of letting reconciliation go from rare and bipartisan to common and partisan is that we will go from a Senate where “people are usually pretty decent to one another” to a Senate that “bleaches out normal behavior and the normal instincts of human sympathy.”

Chilling stuff, huh?

But none of Brooks’s evidence is true. Literally none of it. The budget reconciliation process was used six times between 1980 and 1989. It was used four times between 1990 and 1999. It was used five times between 2000 and 2009. And it has been used zero times since 2010. Peak reconciliation use, in other words, was in the ’80s, not the Aughts. The data aren’t hard to find. They were published on Brooks’s own op-ed page.

Nor has reconciliation been limited to bills with “significant bipartisan support.” To use Brooks’s example of the tax cuts, the 2003 tax cuts passed the Senate 50-50, with Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. Two Democrats joined with the Republicans in that effort. Georgia’s Zell Miller, who would endorse George W. Bush in 2004 and effectively leave the Democratic Party, and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson. So I’d say that’s one Democrat. One Democrat alongside 49 Republicans. That’s not significant bipartisan support.

[Click to continue reading Ezra Klein – Everything David Brooks says about reconciliation is wrong ]

Mr. Klein continues on this vein, with examples and proof and EVERYTHING. You should click the link.

I’m quite curious as to how the editors of the NYT will handle this gaffe. Will there be a correction in tomorrow’s paper? An appended comment to the Op-Ed? or will they just ignore the egg on their faces?

A Little to the Left

Jonathan Chait adds at The New Republic:

Oh, the humanity!

So using a majority vote procedure to pass legislation that the minority party has used strict partisan discipline into whipping its members into opposing is fundamentally about denying the humanity of the Other. It is a sad thing, and both parties sadly share some blame, but on the matter before us, the Republicans are in fact correct.

In reality, Brooks’ conclusion is absurd. Does he really think that passing changes to the health care bill through reconciliation will materially effect how parties act in the future? He believes that the next Republican administration with more than 50 but fewer than 60 Senators would decline to pass a tax cut through reconciliation, but will now do so because the Democrats did it? I doubt even Karl Rove could say this with a straight face.

In any case, we don’t have to guess about the future. We can look to precedent. Bill Clinton passed the signature domestic achievement of his presidency, the 1993 deficit reduction bill, through reconciliation with zero Republican votes. Sadly, Brooks was not there to explain how this denied the Republicans’ humanity. In 2001, George W. Bush did get some Democrats to support his tax cut, most of them after it was a fait accompli. Why did he go through reconciliation, rather than regular order? It certainly had costs — he had to sunset the whole thing after ten years. He did it because he didn’t want to make the compromises he would have needed to get 60 votes. And if you think he would have given up the tax cut if a handful of Democrats hadn’t jumped aboard, you’re delusional.

[Click to continue reading David Brooks At His David Brooksiest | The New Republic]

If you want a laugh, you can read David Brooks for yourself

Reading Around on January 10th through January 17th

A few interesting links collected January 10th through January 17th:

  • New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers — Daily Intel – The argument for remaining free was based on the belief that nytimes.com is growing into an English-language global newspaper of record, with a vast audience — 20 million unique readers — that, Nisenholtz and others believed, would prove lucrative as web advertising matured. (The nytimes.com homepage, for example, has sold out on numerous occasions in the past year.) As other papers failed to survive the massive migration to the web, the Times would be the last man standing and emerge with even more readers. Going paid would capture more circulation revenue, but risk losing significant traffic and with it ad dollars.
  • The Climate Killers : Rolling Stone – The Climate Killers Meet the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming: Warren Buffett
    Rupert Murdoch
    Jack Gerard, President, American Petroleum
    Rex Tillerson, CEO, ExxonMobil
    Sen. Mary Landrieu, Democrat, Louisiana
    Marc Morano, Founder, Climate Depot
    Sen. James Inhofe, Republican, Oklahoma
    David Ratcliffe, CEO, Southern Company
    Dick Gephardt, CEO, Gephardt Group
    George Will, Commentator, ABC
    Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Don Blankenship, CEO, Massey Energy
    Hack Scientist, Fred Singer, Retired physicist, University of Virginia
    Sen. John McCain, Republican, Arizona
    Rep. Joe Barton, Republican, Texas
    Charles and David Koch, CEO and Executive Vice President, Koch Industries
  • Everything That Ever Happens Is Good News For The Republicans, Corporate Media Insists – In the Senate, two Democrats will retire but six Republicans will join them. In the House, GOP retirements outpace Democrats 14 to 10.

Whoopsie! Safire is on permanent hiatus

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

[click to embiggen photo]

Today’s New York Times Magazine has an awkward typo: William Safire, who died September 27th, is listed as being on hiatus. Yikes. Last week’s NYT Magazine said Safire “is on hiatus for a few weeks.” Ok, last weeks magazine was excusable, it was only a couple of days after Mr. Safire’s death. But to alter the byline means someone edited it since last week. Awkward…

They have now appended a correction to the online version of the article

A note with the “On Language” column on Page 14 this weekend refers to the absence of the regular columnist, William Safire. Mr. Safire died last Sunday, after some copies had gone to press.

The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, SF


Three Is the Magic Number
[Three Is the Magic Number]

The New York Times is making plans for editions of the paper tailored to the Chicago area and other metropolitan markets, in addition to the San Francisco edition it plans to launch this fall.

“We’re in conversations with potential news providers in Chicago about adding local content to The Times,” said Diane C. McNulty, a spokeswoman for The Times. “Our intent is to roll out these expanded reports in several key markets around the country, with Chicago following San Francisco. The details are still being discussed. The idea is to provide additional quality local content for our readers.”

Plans for the San Francisco edition call for adding to the paper, twice a week, two additional pages of news about northern California. At first, the added content will be produced by The Times’ own writers and editors. But eventually, the plan, as in Chicago, is to turn the production over to a local partner.

[From The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, Too, and Other Markets – Media Decoder Blog – NYTimes.com]

Speaking for myself, I’d probably enhance my NYT subscription to include weekdays when this happens1. The Chicago Tribune has shrunk its news hole so drastically that reading the entire front section takes about 9 minutes, on a good day. Some days there are about 150 words of interest to me in the whole paper. Chicago sports is still multiple pages, of course, but who gives a rats ass about the Bears or the Cubs? Not I. There are much better sports writers on the web anyway, especially for the one sport I follow2. The Tribune brain-trust has decided that the only way for profitability is to fire/retire all of the actual reporters, and make the paper easier to browse while sitting on the bus. Shorter stories, more pictures, more entertainment news. Bleh. The New York Times, on the other hand, is still filled with words in complex sentences, and not just pretty3 graphics. I may disagree with the NYT on various topics, but it is the best newspaper now being published.

Will be very interested to see how this shakes out. Will the Tribune counter this incursion by increasing their news collection? Or just continue fading into irrelevance? My subscription to the Tribune lapsed last week, and I struggled with the decision to renew it or not. I decided I would give them one more year to figure out their audience, so we’ll see.

Newspapers should focus on what they do best: collecting & analyzing data about our society and world, and stop tarting themselves up to attract 19 year old boys who can’t read anyway.

  1. currently I only get the Saturday/Sunday package []
  2. The NBA if you’ve forgotten []
  3. vacant – oh private joke []

Reading Around on July 8th through July 9th

A few interesting links collected July 8th through July 9th:

  • The New York Times > Magazine > Second Gilded Age – “A picture essay in The Times Magazine on Sunday and an expanded slide show on NYTimes.com entitled “Ruins of the Second Gilded Age” showed large housing construction projects across the United States that came to a halt, often half-finished, when the housing market collapsed. The introduction said that the photographer, a freelancer based in Bedford, England, “creates his images with long exposures but without digital manipulation.”A reader, however, discovered on close examination that one of the pictures was digitally altered, apparently for aesthetic reasons. Editors later confronted the photographer and determined that most of the images did not wholly reflect the reality they purported to show. Had the editors known that the photographs had been digitally manipulated, they would not have published the picture essay, which has been removed from NYTimes.com.”
  • PDNPulse: New York Times Magazine Withdraws Altered Photo Essay – The New York Times Magazine has withdrawn a photo essay by Edgar Martins — described in print as having been produced “without digital manipulation” — because several of the photographs show signs of digital manipulation. The photo essay, which ran in the July 5 issue of the magazine, shows abandoned real estate projects.
  • Straight Dope Chicago: Followup: Is the late arrival of summer in Chicago proof of global warming? – “Here we begin to see a pattern. The long-term winter temperature trend is up, though not dramatically. Clearly the 1950s were an unusually warm time. Considered over a shorter period, however — from the bitterly cold winters of 1977-79 to the present — winter temperatures in Chicago have risen sharply. The past decade has been the warmest stretch in the past 60 years. That’s in line with the common observation among climate-change specialists that winters have warmed up more than summers.Now look again at the early fall chart. We see the same rising trend, although it started later. The average high temperature declined until 1993, but has risen markedly since then. Is this evidence of the seasonal shift some experts claim to have detected — an unmistakable sign of global warming? Eh, 15 years is too short a time to judge. But could “

“70INX70IN Versatol Tri-pod Screen Matte White Keystone Elim.” (Da-Lite Screen Company, Inc.)

Sonia Zjawinski of the New York Times advocates theft from Flickr

The comments left on Sonia Zjawinski’s NYT blog post run about 54-2 eviscerating Ms. Zjawinski for advising New York Times readers to steal photos from random Flickr users. Since yesterday when I read this article (and tweeted about it),1 there were about 23 comments, at this moment, the count is 58. Ms. Zjawinski has added a couple of paragraphs claiming that stealing photos from strangers is akin to watching Lost on your TiVo. Umm, not quite, not quite. What editor let such an inane article be published?

I sift through Flickr on a regular basis for images to use as visuals for my blog posts. As with most things related to the Web, it’s easy to get sidetracked with not-so-work-related search terms like, “kittens” and “vintage bicycles.” Through these bouts of procrastination, I’ve often found stunning photographs, so much so I’ve gotten in the habit of printing faves out and framing them. If a user offers the original resolution for download, don’t let that go to waste. Download, print, frame!

And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.

Of all the artwork I have in my studio apartment (there isn’t a bare wall in the house), my Flickr finds get the most attention. Best of all, they were practically free! I use a Kodak ESP7 AIO printer to ink my finds on various sizes of photo paper and frame them in inexpensive frames found at Urban Outfitters or Ikea. The only thing I pay for is ink, paper and frames — peanuts, in my opinion.

[Click to read Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com and comments]

yesterday evening, the following statement was appended:

UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: Added sentences acknowledging the controversy surrounding the use and reuse of other people’s content on the Internet; also indicated forthcoming post that will address these issues more directly.

I still don’t think Ms. Zjawinski understands copyright, or is able to read Flickr’s Terms of Service. Ironic, in that The New York Times vigorously defends itself from being copied, and is publicly irritated with Google over Google’s linking procedures. I guess different rules apply to the corporate citizen than the private citizen.

Each Flickr user can set their default privacy settings, not that these settings really deter the determined thief like Ms. Zjawinski:

When people are looking at the main display page for one of your photos or a video (e.g.), they will see a button labeled “all sizes” underneath the title. From there, they can download any of the different sizes available, including the original file, unless you choose to prevent it.

Preventing people from downloading something also means that a transparent image will be positioned over the image on the main photo page, which is intended to discourage* people from right-clicking to save, or dragging the image on to their desktop.

If people are unable to access a photo or video of yours — for example if you’ve marked it as private — they won’t be allowed to download the original either.

People with free accounts aren’t able to offer their original files for download.

[From Flickr: Allowing Downloads]

What clueless mongoloid idiots like Sonia Zjawinski don’t realize is that most photographers on Flickr would willingly share their images, if only asked. She should annotate all the images she stole from Flickr users with the name of the artist, title, and perhaps the URL. For me, nearly every time someone has asked to use my photo, I have agreed. Commercial usages: I ask for a fee of some sort, but non-commercial usages? Usually no problem. However, in my mind, printing out an image is akin to commercial usage. Here’s what my Flickr profile says:

You are welcome to use my photos/images on your website or blog post, but please give proper attribution. I’d prefer if you also left me a comment telling me where you are using my image.

If you want to use a photo of mine in your magazine, book, or other printed use, contact me: I have a high resolution Photoshop image on my computer. Rates negotiable.

I wrote a letter to Assistant Managing Editor Michelle McNally who oversees photography for The New York Times

Dear Ms. McNally,

As a long time subscriber to the New York Times, and a long time Flickr user, I am extremely disappointed in the apparent advocacy of photography theft suggested by Sonia Zjawinski. Is this really the policy The New York Times is suggesting to its readers? Ms. Zjawinski needs to be forced to attend an Intellectual Property workshop, perhaps one conducted by NYT in-house counsel. Or else fired.

A Flickr friend left this comment:

I’m also an attorney licensed to practice in three states, and can assure you that what you are advocating is not permissible under U.S. Copyright law. The photographer typically owns the copyright on any photograph she takes (provided it was taken after January 1, 1978), with certain limited exceptions. One thing to remember is a copyright is not a singular right, but rather a collection of rights regarding distribution, licensing and use.

The U.S. Copyright Office reminds you – “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”

Ask before you take. It’s not just polite, it’s the law.

[From Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com]

and there is also this response

That’s right, in a recent column, NY Times ‘writer’ Sonia Zjawinski advocates her readers steal your photos from flickr to fill up empty space on their walls

I highly encourage you all to comment on the article letting Sonia know what you think about her advice.

You could also ask the Time’s Assisting Managing Editor if this is the official policy of the paper or a practice she endorses.


get on it people!

and please…by all means, copy this image and as much of the text as you want for your own personal use.

update: the photo editor of the NYT responds –

Flickr Images and Copyright

Q. Do you endorse the view of Sonia Zjawinski that it is perfectly acceptable to steal copyrighted images from the Internet? Do you think it’s a good idea for The New York Times to seemingly endorse such views by publishing them? Or do you think it is as disgusting and outrageous as I do?

— Rod Irvine

A. I have received a number of queries about Ms. Zjawinski’s recent post on Gadgetwise, a New York Times blog about personal technology, in which she discussed downloading and printing Flickr images for use as home décor. Here is where The Times stands on the issues that have been raised about the post:

We are strong proponents of copyright protection. The New York Times does not endorse, nor is it our policy to engage in, the infringement of copyrighted work. We apologize for any suggestion to the contrary.

  1. Commenters are really (and rightfully) reaming Sonia Zjawinski of the NYT for advocating photo theft http://bit.ly/10pf6t []

Reading Around on March 13th through March 16th

A few interesting links collected March 13th through March 16th:

  • The NYT should just give Cheney a byline – “Dick Cheney isn’t Vice President any more, but the New York Times is still treating his comments as so newsworthy they must be presented without rebuttal. The Times devotes 558 words to Cheney’s appearance on CNN yesterday – 501 of which are devoted to simply quoting or paraphrasing Cheney. The 57 words that weren’t devoted to amplifying Cheney’s arguments didn’t include even a word of rebuttal:”
  • 25 Things I Learned at MIT – TrueHoop By Henry Abbott – ESPN – Last Saturday I filled most of a notebook with thoughts from the MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference. It’s all good fodder for TrueHoop. Pieces have made their way onto TrueHoop. More to come.

    But it has been a busy week ever since (there is no rest when you’re determined to write about Trevor Ariza every ten minutes!) and I don’t want to let those thoughts slip through the cracks.

    Some notes:

Reading Around on January 25th through January 26th

A few interesting links collected January 25th through January 26th:

  • How to Replace a Sky in Photoshop – “Got an image that is great, except for that lifeless dull sky? Learn how to replace the sky in an image using Photoshop in this tutorial.”
  • Op-Ed Columnist – Will Obama Save Liberalism? – NYTimes.com – “This is William Kristol’s last column.” Awesome news.
  • Blog-Sothoth: netflixed What Times Is It There – Sounds awesome. Added to my Netflix queue.”What Time is it There? is a quiet masterpiece–and literally quiet, because there is about ten minutes of dialogue in a two-hour film. If you need traditional plot in your flicks, avoid this one like the plague. It moves like an ethereal dream.”
  • Media Matters – Goldberg publishes badly doctored version of Rose/Brokaw interview as purported evidence of Brokaw’s bias – Bernie Goldberg is just a hack, talentless, bitter hack. “In another house-of-cards example of purported media infatuation with President Obama offered by Bernard Goldberg in his new book, Goldberg echoes Rush Limbaugh by printing badly doctored “snippets” of an interview between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw. Goldberg’s doctored transcript of the interview falsely suggests, among other things, that Brokaw expressed the view that “there’s a lot about [Obama] we don’t know,” when, in fact, Brokaw attributed that assertion to “conservative commentators” and that comments Brokaw and Rose made about their lack of familiarity with the candidates applied only to Obama when, in fact, they were referring to Sen. John McCain as well.”

Squeamish Quotations of Those Potty Mouths

The New York Times cannot decide if it is a contemporary publication, or a throwback to the Puritan/Victorian heritage that considered exposure of an ankle to be shocking. Naval-gazing is not solely the province of the blogosphere.1

The Times does not always seem consistent in its decisions. It would not print “nuts” last week but put “cojones” in a headline 10 years ago. The newspaper reviewed a rock band last fall without printing its name because it contained what is probably the most objectionable of Carlin’s seven words. When Vice President Cheney used a variant of the same word on the floor of the Senate in 2004 to tell Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont what to do to himself, The Times again passed. But two years later, it did print another of Carlin’s words when President Bush told Tony Blair, then the British prime minister, what Syria needed to tell Hezbollah to knock off. The same word appeared last year in an article about a telephoned threat to Bernard Spitzer, whose son Eliot was then governor of New York. The Times was back on the conservative side this year, ignoring a vulgarism by former President Bill Clinton in the middle of a rant about Todd Purdum, a writer for Vanity Fair.

Keller told me before the Jackson issue arose: “I think the trend here — and it’s something I share — is we don’t want to be leading the charge to a coarser public discourse. We want to err on the side of civility. If occasionally that makes us seem squeamish or square, I can live with that.”

Caine, the law professor, argued that The Times needs to loosen up and cited as one model The New Yorker, where the barriers to Carlin’s forbidden words began falling in 1985.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, said, “People use these words in everyday speech. Why should we editors become so decorous and want to protect our readers from them? If a vice president uses a profanity to describe a senator, why should we sanitize his expression?”

Allan Siegal, Whitney’s predecessor as standards editor, said that Remnick was invited to speak at a retreat of Times editors some years ago and criticized “the prudery and hypocrisy of not using dirty words in the paper.” But while Remnick sees his audience and The Times’s as the same, The New Yorker is not delivered to middle- and high-school classrooms as 40,000 daily copies of The Times are.

The Times has built one of the most powerful brands in the world on the strength of writing “in a civil, measured way for people who want to read in a civil, measured way,” as Siegal put it. Although I would have quoted Jackson — and Cheney and Clinton, for that matter — I think the newspaper is wise to preserve its character and adapt slowly and carefully to the language around it. I use some of Carlin’s dirty words, but I do not want to read them in The Times unless it is essential, and I do not think I am alone.

[From The Public Editor – When to Quote Those Potty Mouths – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com]

How about my compromise: use language that is appropriate to the topic. My grandfather, Joe Murphy, has a quote about writers and salty language, which goes something like, “only a poor writer requires curse words to communicate clearly.” The culture has changed a bit since Joe Murphy was a newspaper editor though, and the self-proclaimed paper of record should accurately quote Vice Presidents,2 musicians,3 and other public figures, but reporters need not work the word “fuck” into their supporting sentences, unless absolutely necessary – like discussing George Fucking Bush and his love for torture and other war crimes.

  1. yes, skippy coined the phrase []
  2. Cheney told Senator Leahy to “Go Fuck Yourself” []
  3. Bono proclaimed winning some award was “fucking great” []