Monthly Archives: January 2017

New York Times loves many, except when…

Guess how the New York Times would respond if a media critic wrote that many people believe the New York Times publishes reporters’ opinions in the guise of objective news. And that many people say the Times allows sloppy, vague, unattributed reporting to be published as facts. While few believe Times reporting is objective. I can imagine the harrumphs from the Times editorial board, with demands for proof: Who are… Read Article →


Gaslighting is not yet journalese, but is a wonderful word, the origin of which movie critic Ty Burr explains in The Boston Sunday Globe, Jan. 29, 2017, in an essay headlined (in the online edition) : ” ‘Gaslight’ is back in the Trump era, but where does it come from?” His piece begins: “What do the people of America have in common with the late, great Hollywood movie star Ingrid… Read Article →

Dangling witches

Confirming that the Boston Globe has fired all copy editors is a sentence in a Jan. 28, 2017, story about a memorial to “witches” that is planned for Salem, Massachusetts, where 19 people accused of witchcraft were executed in 1692. Here’s the sentence: “Historians confirmed the area was the likely site of the witch hangings in January last year, after years of dedicated research aided by a professor from Salem… Read Article →

Concerns, from Hmmm… to mad as hell.

If reporters today were covering Howard Beale’s “mad-as-hell” speech in the 1976 film “Network,” they would probably report that he “raised concerns” about TV news. Illustration of the use of “concern” — ranging from meaning slightly bothered to wildly furious — are seen in two stories on page B2 in the Jan. 27, 2017, edition of The Boston Globe. A story about charges of kickbacks to a clergy watchdog group,… Read Article →

Who are progressive?

A progressive is a politician or political party the reporter and editor admire. It’s a stamp of approval, a code word for good guys. It doesn’t matter if far-leftists, anarchists, socialists, communists, Marxists, Maoists, dictators, liberals, tree-huggers, Greenpeace pirates or wild revolutionaries — they all claim to be progressive. They are never labelled in the media as ultra-progressive or hard line progressive. Those labels are restricted to conservatives or nationalists… Read Article →

Cliché artists report.

There’s nothing like a Mid-East peace conference to bring out a flood of clichés and journalese. With a tip of the hat to the classic New Yorker “cliché artist” interviews, here are questions we asked about the Syrian peace talks that started in Astana, Kazakhstan, and answers we found in a Jan. 24, 2017, story in the New York Times: Where is Astana? “On the frigid steppe near the Russian… Read Article →

Calloused hands

Blue collar workers always have calloused hands, according to a Law of Journalese, even if the reporter has not shaken hands or examined palms and fingers of the people he or she is writing about. A story a while back reported that shipyard workers with calloused hands constructed a famous frigate built 200 years ago, which would have meant the reporter found records of what the hands looked like. Here’s… Read Article →

NY Times covers Obama’s final presser

Obama’s final press conference as president provided New York Times reporters with a wonderful opportunity for color, analysis, conjecture, guesswork and psychology. Here are some choice bits from their story, on Jan 19, 2017, with commentary in parenthesis by old-time reporters at the National Press Club’s Reliable Source bar. “The encounter had a last-day-of-school feel to it….” (The kids and teachers were happy as hell, but that’s probably not what… Read Article →

Nicknames, only for gangsters

There’s a Law of Journalese that requires reporters to always report the nicknames of gangsters. And there’s no better place to pull out all stops when there’s a gangster’s obituary. The AP obit, Jan. 18, 2017, of Philadelphia gangster, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, provided a good selection of nicknames of his associates and enemies: ‘‘Chicken Man,” ‘‘Nicky Crow,’’ ‘‘Tommy Del,’’ and ‘‘Frankie Flowers.’’ No nicknames are ever published of cops,… Read Article →


Headlinese is the vocabulary of headlines: words that are rarely, if ever, used in everyday conversation or writing. They are short, punchy, and handy to a headline writer on deadline. One of my favorites is “irk,” which can cover a wide range of emotion: annoyance, anger, bother, teed-off, outrage, indignation, freak-out, irritation, bug, and more. The Boston Globe, Jan. 16, 2017, had a great usage for a p. one top… Read Article →