The Washington Post (via NPR) has lifted the curtain on a debate underway within NPR on whether obscenities should be allowed on public radio.

Honk if you thought Nina Totenberg would be one of the NPR reporters most likely to push back against an edict that they be bleeped.

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon got things rolling on his program last week when Mark Memmott, NPR’s standards and practices boss, described the newsroom debate which focused on whether NPR can say someone is a (bleep) if someone says he/she is a (bleep) in news coverage.


  1. Listen Three Things to Know about NPR’s Policy Regarding Offensive Language (NPR’s Weekend Edition)

    July 25, 2015

Said Memmott in a memo to his staff:

“We’re professional communicators at a major news organization. What we say and write in public reflects on NPR. No matter what platform we’re using or where we’re appearing, we should live up to our own standards. Yes, there’s more room in podcasts to let guests speak freely and for our journalists to be looser with their language. But it doesn’t mean NPR correspondents are free to use words or phrases in podcasts that they would never use on the air.
“We should always be the news outlet that revels in language. There are so many wonderful words. Use them!”

That earned pushback from Totenberg, the network’s Supreme Court reporter, according to the Post.

In a memo to newsroom staffers, she cited an audio report from Iraq by correspondent Eric Westervelt that featured soldiers’ shouted — and unbleeped — profanities during a firefight. “In life and death battles, it really would distract and sound stupid to bleep out such language,” she wrote. “We expect it in such situations.”

But Totenberg also presented a more problematic theoretical case to her colleagues: What if a prominent figure publicly insulted a female reporter by using a word that rhymes with (Bob edits: “Just you never mind what it rhymes with.”) (Totenberg used the word in her memo, thus eliciting Simon’s droll characterization of it.)

The Post says while Totenberg’s view has not held sway at NPR, it’s gotten support from colleagues who insist NPR is too bleep-happy.

“We can protect our audience right into a . . . coma,” one colleague said.

Of course, there’s another aspect of the debate that the NPR journalists may not be considering: NPR doesn’t own radio stations; their work is broadcast by radio stations whose sensibilities may not agree with Totenberg.

But what’s particularly cool is NPR had the discussion out in the open, and that Totenberg argued with an executive on the air.

We should have that more often.

Here’s a question for motorcycle fans: How much of your love of motorcycles depends on the combustion engine?

You know what I’m talking about — the big, raw, powerful, guttural sound of gasoline exploding in a cylinder, with fire and noise being ejected out the valve and directly into the ears of the neighbors?

Can the buzz of an electric motorcycle ever hold such romance for you?

Minneapolis-based Polaris is banking that the answer is “yes” and you’d be willing to drop almost $20,000 to affirm it.

Its Victory division has unveiled the Empulse TT, an electric motorcycle.

It’s hard to tell how much of the electric whine has been enhanced in that video. We may not know until they show up at the Sturgis rally next week.

In making the unveiling this week, Polaris/Victory tweaked its competition to the east — Harley Davidson.

“A Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle has to deliver on our customers’ expectations … not just meet a set of technical specifications,” Harley spokesman Tony Macrito tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today.

It’s still unclear what the attraction will be. They might be great when gas prices go back up, but you can buy a lot of octane for $20,000. And it’s still unclear how far you can get on a single charge.

“I suppose a young sport bike rider might buy this,” a biker comments on the Journal Sentinel site, “but NO BIKER would be caught dead on it! The sound of a sewing machine just doesn’t do it for us! We want the sound of rumbling exhausts!”

“Why don’t we just find a way to put wheels on a smartphone?” sniffed another. Oh snap!

If you buy one, I want to be there when you stop at the biker bar.

Well, isn’t this just a fine way to find your business when you show up for work in the morning.

Bayport BBQ Facebook page

Owner Chris Johnson found this yesterday at his Bayport BBQ.

Someone, it would seem, had a poor dining experience so spray-painted the storefront and jammed screws in the front door, according to Eater. Someone, apparently, with an inability to spell.

It’s the kind of thing that can ruin your day, of course. But then the neighborhood kids showed up — Nick and Tony in this case, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Bayport BBQ

Other people pitched in and they got the screws removed from the door…

Bayport BBQ

To show its gratitude, the restaurant/bar will provide a concert on Friday evening for free. It’ll still pay the band, it notes.

(h/t: Bill Wareham)