Category Archives: Uncategorized

Crowd estimates: your choice

We have commented on reporters’ accepting the size of crowds as given by event organizers, with the Boston classics of one million attending First Night or the July 4 Pops concert and fireworks over the Charles River. This would make the crowds almost twice the city’s population. What brings this up was an unusual crowd size report by David Bienick of WCVB Channel 5 about the Women’s March Boston, Jan…. Read Article →

Nondescript in the eyes reporter

“Nondescript” is a classic journalese adjective applied to something the reporter doesn’t like. Merriam-Webster defines nondescript as “lacking distinctive or interesting qualities: dull, drab.” What brings this up is a Boston Sunday Globe page one article on Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace’s future, with the news peg being the closure of the 192-year-old Durgin-Park restaurant. The Globe describes the market: “Its collection of chain stores ….can be found in any mall… Read Article →

Don’t mention the straight face.

There’s an obscure Law of Journalese that prohibits a reporter from quoting a source and adding that it was said “with a straight face.” This law was followed by Boston Globe business reporter John Chesto on Jan. 8, 2019, in a story about developers being the big donors of the $1.1 million collected by Governor Charles Baker’s second-term inauguration celebration committee. Developers and others who like to help out the… Read Article →

Issues with issues.

I have no idea when the media started using the word “issues” to mean every trouble, problem or conflict — from an athlete’s aching knee to a nation facing bankruptcy. But is now standard journalese. For example, this headline in the Wednesday Food section of the Jan. 2, 2019, issue — OK, edition — of The Boston Globe: “How to tackle your food issues.” The story begins: “It unfolds the… Read Article →

NY Times bamboozle rule.

The New York Times has a little-publicized rule that requires reporters to use, in news or feature stories, words understood only by readers who are expert solvers of their crossword puzzles. The more often such words are used the better chance for promotion to copy editor. This rule was illustrated in a story Dec. 23, 2018, about the increasing number of black surfers (the ocean wave-riding kind; not internet geeks)… Read Article →

Travel guides and cobblestones

Boston Sunday Globe travel writer Christopher Muther has a good story, Dec. 23, 2018, headlined “Why do travel guides get Boston wrong?” He starts: “In the 25 years I’ve lived in Boston, I’ve stepped on more dog excrement than cobblestones.” We didn’t quite say it that way in our Journalese Dictionary when we defined cobblestones: “All quaint towns or neighborhoods are paved with cobblestones, even when they are not. ‘Boston’s… Read Article →

Adjectives galore at the NY Times

Back in the old days of journalism, copy editors prohibited adjectives and adverbs unless they were absolutely necessary to the story. Today, they are welcomed: the more the merrier. The New York Times is a champion. Example: In this one lede sentence on Dec. 18, 2018, the Times has five adjectives: “BEIJING — Facing deepening tensions abroad and anxieties at home, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, delivered an unabashed defense of… Read Article →

Garbage by any other name…

Politically correct reporting can be amusing. A great example was in a news report on Boston’s WCVB, Channel 5, on Dec 11, 2018. The reporter told how a fire broke out in a “recycling truck” in a residential neighborhood. The into and text also called it a “recycling truck.” Two witnesses were interviewed. One called it a “trash truck” the other a “garbage truck.” I expect Sigmund Freud would have… Read Article →

Freaking out.

Journalese, the language of the press, has always adopted slang, jargon or lingo of politicians, business hot-shots, gurus of various stripes, hacks and flacks. Today, when the press is “social media,” journalese adopts the vocabulary of teen-agers, the trend-setting linguists of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and you name it. Here’s an example, a headline from the Boston Globe business section, Dec. 8, 2018: “The jobs report is good news… Read Article →

Bring on the modifiers!

The New York Times loves adjectives, adverbs and any other modifier, whether they make sense or not. Jazzing up a text is what counts. Here’s an example from Nov. 27, 2018, in a story about Russia’s shooting at a Ukrainian navy ship: “The confrontation Sunday, in the vicinity of the Kerch Strait, a narrow passage between the Black and Azov seas, was a serious escalation in the conflict between Russia… Read Article →