Hifallutin words law

The New York Times has a rule, not found in its Style Manual, that says every story must use at least one word that the average reader must go to a dictionary to understand. And even then, it may not make much sense. An example of this was “transformational” in the following lede of a story about the Sept. 12, 2019, Democratic candidates’ “debate” : “HOUSTON — The leading Democratic… Read Article →

The hulking supertanker

Traditional journalese calls for “hulking” to be the description of a parking garage or other large building a reporter doesn’t like, and which, by coincidence, a well-heeled developer and pal of the mayor wants to replace with high-rise condos or an office building. But USA Today on Sept 8, 2019, has an unusual application: a supertanker. Here’s the story lede: “WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has used diplomatic pressure, legal… Read Article →

Moby Dick Law of Journalese

A little-known (that means the reporter just learned something he or she hopes most people haven’t heard about): The Moby Dick Law of Journalese. Reporters at New England newspapers (what’s left of them) must regularly use Moby Dick as a metaphor. This is to show that the reporters remembered something from American Lit 101. The law is especially enforced in coastal newspapers, even though Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick” in… Read Article →

Wild-caught what?

Journalese of the Day: You won’t believe this… Our Journalese Dictionary includes a section “Plat du Journalese — A menu of essential ingredients found in spicing up or watering down restaurant reviews and food features.” Although our list ranges from Artisanal: “Homemade from scratch. So they say,” to Well-structured: “A dish that stands up all by itself,” we missed an essential description of any seafood: “wild-caught.” This is so common… Read Article →

Only half a million.

The classic law of crowd estimate journalese says that a reporter must echo a promoter’s estimate of the size of the crowd, no matter how inflated and impossible the number is. The Boston Globe dutifully followed this law on July 5, 2019 in reporting that “an estimated half a million people” lined the Esplanade for the annual 4th of July Boston Pops concert. The story does not say who did… Read Article →

End of what era?

Headline of the Days: Here’s the Boston Globe , page 1, top story headline, June 24, 2019: “Casino opens to throngs ready to celebrate a new era. “2.6b Encore resort will operate 24 hours a day, every day; No initial traffic woes.” And here’s a Globe Metro section headline the next day: “4 arrested at casino on first day; police call it a success.” No idea what “new era” was… Read Article →

The Prize for Mind-Reading.

If there were a journalism prize for mind-reading, speculation and opinion — in the guise of a news story — The New York Times would be the sure winner. Take this one paragraph sentence in a Mary 24, 2019, story about “the war of words” between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “But her decision to dramatize the fight also represented an embrace of Trump’s own signature political tactic: an… Read Article →

Hulking rule violated

A rule of journalese requires that all parking garages or old buildings the reporter doesn’t like, and which a favored developer wants to replace with condos (luxury, of course), must be described as “hulking.” The Boston Globe violated this rule recently when Wynn Resorts announced a ferry service to its Encore casino in Everett, adjoining Boston. The casino is expected to open in June. The Globe reported: “The service will… Read Article →

TV anchors’ millions.

TV anchors’ millions. An obscure law of journalese requires TV anchors, in their teaser introduction, to report how many millions of Americans will be affected by a predicted storm, flood, forest fire or other catastrophe. How the anchors predict the number of millions is a trade secret. For example, Tom Lallas, of ABC News on May10, 2019, reported: “40 million people are bracing for extreme weather…” Amazing that knew that… Read Article →

Story that makes you wonder

Some stories make you wonder. Like a top-of-fold story on first page of the Metro section of the print edition of The Boston Globe, Apr. 24, 2019, headlined: “College is warned on its shaky finances — State tells Hellenic its degree granting authority is at risk.” The story lede: “Another small private college in New England is in trouble. Hellenic College Holy Cross, a Greek Orthodox school in Brookline, received… Read Article →