Could the editors at the Los Angeles Times be any more useless? Their newspaper is going down in flames, with cash flow declines ranked worst among the deeply troubled Tribune Company newspapers. Their best hope for salvation is the Web, where the paper is desperately behind upstart competitors like Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood and the Huffington Post. Just last year the paper installed new publishing software that couldn't even handle hyperlinks. And yet newsroom "leaders" just spent 18 months in a fucking (ahem) committee debating what swears bloggers should be allowed to use, and when. The byzantine machinations involved some sort of appeal to a "ruling" of a special committee about some formal guidelines, and of course resulted in a tedious and useless memo that should make anyone who ever cared about the once-great newspaper want to slit his wrists. Its insufferable, self-indulgent stupidity lies after the jump. Oh, and it basically says no one can use "pissed off" because it's crude and might tarnish the LA Times's sterling image in the remaining months before the paper's now-all-but-inevitable collapse.

"Pissed off" is among crude language regularly removed from Times coverage as part of what McCoy acknowledges is "a conservative standard" when it comes to publishing coarse or vulgar remarks...

Clark Stevens oversees the style and usage guidelines at The Times... "It's a phrase we've all heard, and most of us have used. But is it essential to the story (or the quotation) here, and is it consistent with the overall tone and image we want to project to our readers? I think that's where conservative judgment prevails in favor of not using it..."

The policy for the first time takes into account the online world vs. the print world. As McCoy wrote in her cover note to staff when she distributed the updated guidelines on obscenity and taste, "A less formal voice may be appropriate in online stories and on blogs (as is often the case in feature stories too), but a conversational style is not an invitation to abandon The Times’ high standards by introducing gratuitous obscenities."

So whether it's on or in print, curse words and crude language are supposed to be used only when they are essential to conveying an important point of the story.

Thanks for keeping everyone excruciatingly up to date on your slow-motion embrace of Web culture, LA Times, rather than boring us with stories about, say, philandering politicians and their mistresses!

[LA Times via Romenesko]