Language abuse — as opposed to abusive language — is as old as language itself.
After 50-plus years of reporting and
editing, I should be used to it, but I’m increasingly irritated by its
deliberate, partisan misuse.
Intruding is something
reporters do. Intrusions can be personal, professional, financial or
commercial. Or more than one of the above. And, yes, despite
inexplicably loud cell phone conversations, awareness of omnipresent
smartphone cameras and overly revealing Facebook posts, many Americans
still assert their right to privacy.
You want news of a real weapon of mass
destruction? Try ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored in tanks in the tiny
town of West, Texas. At least 14 dead. Hundreds wounded. High school
and nursing home blitzed. Dozens of homes destroyed.
After Benedict XVI quit and before
cardinals began voting for his successor, daily news-free news stories
left us as ignorant as the day before. Until Francis’ election, nothing really
happened. That’s one reason NPR received 200-plus complaints, its
ombudsman reported, mostly about 47 stories running during the four
weeks between popes.
I hope the tabloid Enquirer holds current subscribers and attracts new readers, especially folks who are drawn more to the visual than the verbal. Publisher Margaret Buchanan promises its debut Monday. Trucks will bring it from Columbus, where it’ll be printed on Dispatch presses.
So what is it about Jews? Not only real Jews but also fearful fantasies about Jews. I ask because so many mainstream
reporters, bloggers and columnists seem fascinated and repelled by the
implied menace of “the Jewish lobby.”
Typically, invoking a Great Man to settle
an argument involves Lincoln, Twain, Stalin, Churchill, Chief Seattle,
etc. Hitler is a provocative new favorite. Among some gun control foes, quoting
Hitler proves what will happen if Obama has his way: gun registration,
confiscation and tyranny.
When a reporter uses the law to pry
public records from resisting officials, readers are supposed to
benefit. And when readers value that invocation of open records laws, it
adds luster to the reporter’s work.
Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School once again demonstrate a troubling paradox: A news story can be accurate and wrong. The aftermath of the massacre quickly
provided reporters with opportunities to put out stories that accurately
reported wildly incorrect but seemingly authoritative information.
I’m grateful to the GQ magazine reporter who asked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about the age of the earth. It raises a vital question for a country
where significant numbers of Americans reject much of science from
creation to evolution.