I read recently of a former CNN employee, a devout Christian, who filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging, among other things, that his co-workers frequently used profane language.
Profanity in a newsroom?! I am shocked! Shocked I say!
Pardon me while I wipe tears from laughing so hard.
Newsrooms are among the few remaining workplaces that I know where swearing is not only routine but tolerated.
Any attempt to curb foul language in such a work setting is a fool’s errand.
Memorably, the editor of The York Daily Record in York, Pa., not long ago circulated a memo reminding workers that cursing is not appropriate in the workplace.
“I know that newspapers have had a salty history and culture,” the memo said. “And I know that we all will slip from time to time. Still, I believe we can express ourselves adequately without the use of profanity.”
In a pressure-cooker environment that demands intense concentration and highly detailed work under deadline, the only better outlet for the frustrations that bubble up than swearing would be to have an indoor firing range.
I recall well my first newspaper job at a tiny newsroom in a community near the Canadian border in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and the day my editor got word that the newspaper had prevailed in a libel lawsuit.
“We beat those bastards!” my boss shouted triumphantly, slamming the phone down.
His exclamation was truly G-rated compared to some of the other expletive-laden outbursts I have heard (and yes, that I myself have led) in newsrooms.
I recall one day as a doe-eyed intern at the Manhattan offices of New York Newsday.
A Metro editor, the late Hap Hairston, sat at his desk, rubbing and clapping his hands and shouting jubilantly to no one in particular: “I love this (F-bomb) story! I love this (F-bomb) story!”
I recall being stunned that an editor would use such language and so loudly. And yet no one — I mean absolutely no one — looked up or gave Hap a second thought.
In a way, he served as a role model for me going forward.
As executive editor of The Pocono Record, I was, well, um, colorful in my vocabulary.
I found that some of my phrases (many learned from my dad and vestiges of growing up in the Bronx) were welcome stress-relievers.
It is a habit that I have carried on, to my chagrin at times.
Late one night in the middle of a breaking news story (a vintage World War II plane had crashed in the Hudson River), I was on the phone with a reporter who proceeded to tell me that the name of the dead pilot given to us hours earlier by the police — and posted online — was incorrect.
“Are you (f-bomb) kidding me?! Oh (f-bomb) me where I sit!” I exclaimed.
Hours later, a senior editor came to my desk and said: “That was quite the animated conversation you had earlier.”
In a cavernous newsroom in the stillness of the night, my voice carried — far.
While that was embarrassing, I am even more mortified that my sons have taken to cursing up a blue streak with abandon.
Damn kids. I do not know where they get it from. I swear.