I think it started last year, around Christmas time. The local electronic media began using the word “closure” instead of “closing”, when doing stories about the Janesville GM plant. In a January blizzard, they talked about “road closures”. And this week, these same folks talked about flu-related school “closures” in Wisconsin Dells.
Presumably, they’ll change the tabs on their websites to inform us about weather-related school “closures” this winter - rather than school “closings”.
The latest jargon to creep into news writing is “Officer-Involved Shooting”. My YourNews colleague John Karcher, the former Channel 3 news anchor, and I have had a few good laughs about this latest example of “NewsSpeak”.
From 1971 until 2008 I was paid - and often paid very well - to try and teach news broadcasters and writers how to use the English language. After nearly four decades of ramming my head into this wall, I have drawn a couple conclusions. First, it’s a fool’s errand. People who are poor writers and speakers almost never think they are. Second, broadcast news writers who are poor at their craft almost always aggressively defend their poor writing, when it‘s pointed out.
I’ve left newsrooms from California to Florida shaking my head, pocketing a large check, and knowing that my hard work and best efforts accomplished very little. Now, with the slow death of local news, budgets for training and coaching have dried up.
This week it also became apparent that far too many of our local broadcasters don’t know that “postpone” and “cancel” mean two different things. One local radio station informed us that the big football game scheduled for tonight between Wisconsin Dells and Adams-Friendship had been “cancelled”. Nope. It was postponed. They’ll play the game when the kids feel better.
Same thing with the big monster truck show that was supposed to be here this weekend. One local TV station said the event was postponed - and then, in the very next sentence, said it was cancelled because of poor ticket sales. Actually, the newscaster said it was “due to” poor ticket sales, but teaching newswriters the correct use of “due to” and “because of” is another fool’s errand.
Broadcasters say “drunk driver” 99% of the time; while print folks say “drunken driver” 99% of the time. (The latter is correct.) Print folks still have editors who catch these things. Broadcasters don’t, and even veteran anchors who should know better, simply recite what’s on the prompter. Like the one a few months ago who said a robber “ran off on foot”. Is there another way to run?
At least she didn’t say “fled on foot in an unknown direction with an undetermined amount of United States currency” - the way cops write these things in their incident reports.
A doctor knows what acute postprandial eructation is, but they’ll still call it a loud belch.
And there’s the Lennox commercial running on TV now which informs me I can contact them “for all my comfort needs”. I’ll notify my wife and the Guinness Brewery that their services are no longer needed.
You don’t want to be anywhere near me when the local news is on. I’m obnoxiously critical.
And if that ESPN announcer welcomes me IN to SportsCenter tomorrow morning, I’ll reach through the TV screen and wring his neck!