If a college paper goes years without addressing the absurdity of censorship in media, is it really a college paper?
Thankfully, there is a remedy – these here words.
First, to clear up the term “censorship,” this particular article will address the suppression of profanity, the blanketing of bad words, the flushing of potty mouths, etc.
Specifically in print media that seems to be stuck in the 1950s when it comes to profanity, the reason for this is The Associated Press.
The AP format is what nearly every news outlet conforms to in formatting, grammar and pretty much everything.
It’s why there’s no oxford comma and why the numbers 0 through 9 are spelled out and not written numerically, for those wondering.
And while it’s efficient and keeps all articles uniform, it might not be the best practice for a college paper aiming to represent a slew of young adults whose favorite word most likely rhymes with “cuck.”
The AP stylebook states that “you should not use obscenities in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.”
And while it seems that with every passing day our limit for censorship is being pushed further toward the edge, the news media is stagnant.
When will the “compelling reason” change to something a bit more lenient and forward thinking? In a field that constantly questions the rules and boundaries of our society, AP style needs to mold around its culture, and a culture of old conservative mothers we are not.
An argument for why bad words are “compelling enough” could be that they are powerful. Simply put, they are the most powerful tool in language.
So powerful, in fact, that throughout history they have been hushed and spoken in whispers by anyone under the age of 18. If a teacher dares utter a single profane term they are lauded as “cool,” and are under threat of termination.
In a 2016 article by Benjamin Bergen from Time, Bergen explains the significance of profanity in language and our cognition of it.
“They are a spontaneous reflection of strong emotional states, like anger, fear or passion,” Bergen said.
He goes on to examine the way in which profane terms are ingrained in our minds and how they are processed differently than regular words.
Bergen relates that because profanity is often uttered spontaneously and without much thought, that it comes from a uniquely primal part of our brain, a part that is truly human.
So, when you stub your toe and scream that beautiful four-letter word at the top of your lungs, it’s perfectly natural and shouldn’t be pushed to the side to appease some close-minded, sensitive folk.
As certain news outlets begin to fray against the constraints of AP style, like Buzzfeed and Vice, it seems that the younger generations will be the first to upend this censorship scene.
It’s no secret that other, more established news organizations use profanity, like Independent or Times, but it often won’t go without being dramatized. The goal is to be able to say these words without making it into a big deal.
But if it takes starting a completely new organization to make new rules, then the fight is in danger of being as fruitless as Connor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather.
If college newspapers are supposed to represent the student body, then AP style needs to be put on the back burner. While it does provide a professional guideline that is respected, it could be a chain that needs to be broken, a Band-Aid to be torn off.
Ultimately, these decisions are made by people much older and richer than I, but hopefully with a bit of repressed teenage angst, the Daily Titan can start churning out some casual “fucks” like good millennials.