How many are many?

A favorite word that lazy reporters get away with is “many.” Back in my years at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, any student using it would get an F and a dope slap. He or she would not use “many” again.

The New York Times loves the word. So does the Boston Globe. There are no editors who ask reporters or headline writers, “How many?” What brings this up (again) is a sub-head in The Boston Globe, Dec. 5, 2021, over a New York Times story. The lede to the story says, “Members of the select committeee investigating Jan. 6….arguing that the ambiguity of the statue puts democracy at risk.” The story does not say how many of the nine on the committee worry about democracy. It’s not mentioned again until the final sentence of the 21 paragraph story. Only one person, Trey Grayson, a former Kentucky secretary of state, not on the committee, is quoted as saying, “The actions hurt our democracy.”

But here’s the headline:

“After Jan 6, Congress eyes changes to electoral count law
” ‘Flawed’ 1887 act puts democracy at risk, many say”

So now you know: Many can be ten. Or fewer. Although it’s usually two: the opinion of the reporter and the editor.

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