Standards and Practices Committee
The Los Angeles Times
August 28, 2008
Obscenities, profanity, vulgarities and coarse language, even in their milder forms, should not be used in The Times -- in print or online -- unless they are germane to the essence of a story.
The Times will adhere to a conservative standard on the use of such terms; attempts to be merely colorful, vivid, clever or conversational, or to reflect common practices of other media, do not meet that standard.
Only compelling reasons uses that are essential to conveying a major point of a story or that are necessary to cast significant light on the character of a person being quoted are acceptable, and such instances will be extremely rare. Offending terms should be eliminated, or paraphrased (but without using language that still hints at the original), or excised by use of ellipses.
Do not replace an offending word with bracketed insertions such as [expletive deleted] or with hyphens or dashes, as this only invites the reader to fill in the blanks.
Avoidance of objectionable terms and quotations should begin with the writer and the line editor. Beyond that, most decisions on the use of obscenities or language of questionable taste, and on the best method of avoiding them, will be made by or in consultation with the copy desk, with the slot as the final arbiter. Issues that cannot be resolved there should be discussed with the chief of copy desks or appealed to the deputy managing editor in charge of such issues, or to the editor. However, the restrictions of this policy are clear, and such appeals are a course that should be followed sparingly.
Communicating effectively across our varied audiences often means differences in content, voice and style on the website, but not lower standards. For Web content, the practices of the printed paper generally apply in straight news stories.
This is also true of most feature material, but here a less formal voice may sometimes be appropriate. In columns and blogs, conversational style is encouraged, and more slang and informal language is acceptable; it should not, however, be offensive to a typical reader. User-generated content is moderated but not edited, and is granted wide leeway in style and expression. However, submissions containing vulgar, offensive or illegal comments will be rejected. Similarly, we will not link to external websites that include nudity, excessive obscenity or other objectionable content.
We acknowledge that a wide range of vulgarities are commonplace on the Internet and elsewhere, but we intend to maintain a much higher standard. We may describe and report on people whose speech is obscene, profane, crude or crass, but we should avoid doing so at their level. When in doubt, think conservatively. The overall goal is to maintain a clean, dignified and civil tone in all writing, in the paper and on the website.
--Standards and Practices
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