Monday, December 08, 2003

The Perils of Passive Construction 
Not to pick on Clair Cozen or The Guardian, but here’s an example of why being a media reporter is incredibly difficult. It’s hard to be objective when the professionals you’re covering are also your friends and coworkers.

The lines between truth and spin were blurred on a regular basis, and the demands of 24-hour news meant items were often broadcast before journalists had the opportunity to check their accuracy.

Don’t you just love mealy-mouthed passive sentence construction? Nothing absolves one of responsibility quite like the combination of an impersonal noun, a passive voice, and a form of the verb “to be.”

“lines were blurred.”
“Items were broadcast.”
“Mistakes were made.”

A sharp editor could easily remedy the second clause. Strike the impersonal, colorless phrase “The demands of 24 hour news” and replace it with “The spinelessness of cable news journalists, producers, and executives.”
There. That’s much clearer, isn’t it?

Finally…News flash--spokespeople spin. It’s what they do. It's what they're paid to do. If the lines between truth and spin become blurred, isn’t it a reporter’s job to unblur them, rather than blaming others for their failures?

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