Monthly Archives: November 2017

Ignore facts, replace with drama

There’s a little publicized law of reporting that requires drama to be substituted for facts when reporters and editors ignore or don’t know the facts. This was illustrated in a Boston Globe story, Nov. 23, 2017, about a Boston North End fire in which two men died. The story reports: “By the time firefighters navigated through the North End’s maze of narrow streets, flames were pouring through windows on two… Read Article →

How many are several?

Several is classic journalese for some. As in, “Some say….” It’s also used for a few, not many, a small number, a handful, a tiny minority. It’s usually used when a reporter or editor has no precise number but whatever it is, it ain’t big. What brings this up is a letter to the editor of The Boston Globe Nov. 22, 2017, from Michael O’Keefe, District attorney of Cape &… Read Article →

Human Capital

A tip of the hat to the Biotech Devil’s Dictionary by STAT, the biotech newsletter published by the owner of The Boston Globe (and Boston Red Sox). The dictionary’s goal is the clear up “a lot of jargon, coded language and outright nonsense in biotech.” Here’s today’s item: “Human capital (n.): An ironically dehumanizing phrase used to liken living, breathing people to business assets, which is either a terrifying glimpse… Read Article →

NY Times euphemism: murderer becomes an activist.

The New York Times gets today’s prize for slanting the news by identifying a convicted murderer as a “controversial activist.” In a Nov. 13, 2017, story headlined “An Arab Bakery in Oakland Full of California Love”, reporter Rebecca Flint Marx writes: “Reem’s is one of a handful of Arab bakeries in the Bay Area — but it is likely the only one where you’ll find the children’s book ‘A Is… Read Article →


A journalese favorite, especially in headlines, is “grill.” Whenever someone is questioned, he or she is grilled. It brings on imagines of 1930s films, with a suspect sitting under a single light bulb surrounded by burly cops wearing shoulder holsters and snarling (burly cops never talked, they snarled): “So you won’t talk, eh????” But now, any question, polite or not, is a grilling. An example is a New York Times… Read Article →

Number as a headline.

I don’t know what bugs me worse: a number used as a headline over a short story, or my reading the damn story. Back in the old days, they would be called fillers. And I suppose they do break up a grey page. (Perhaps Patrick Garvin of The Boston Globe can inform us what the copy desk calls them.) What brings this on are two examples in today’s (Nov. 7,… Read Article →