Disovering the obscure

Our journalese dictionary definition of “obscure” is: “Anything not known to the reporter before working on the story.” It’s a favorite explanation for missing an important detail or an entire story. An example was in a New York Times story Feb. 10, 2018, headlined in the Boston Globe: “Trump won’t declassify Democratic memo.” The story explains, “Under the obscure rule invoked by the House Intelligence Committee to initiate the document’s release, the committee could choose to make those changes, or could decide whether to seek a vote of the full House of Representatives to try to override Trump’s decision.”

The story doesn’t say where the rule has been hidden in obscurity and suddenly discovered by the reporter. But there’s a lot of obscurity in the New York Times. A search of its archives from the paper’s first issue turns up 56,816 usages, of which 741 are from the start of 2017 to today, or about two obscure discoveries a day.

File under: Scoops and revelations.

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