Friday, February 5, 2010

The Standard of Press Reporting wouldn't pass Grade School

The English language is and always has been a work-in-progress. It's an evolving language with new words added and old words falling into disuse every day. Even in England itself, pronunciation could vary with just a few miles geographic distance.

Having said that, the press have always had a duty to be accurate to the stricter rules of English. Colloquialisms have little place in news reporting - which should always, at all times, be the reporting of truth and fact and not opinion (editorials excepted).

Of course, this has rarely been the case. Bias creeps into every paper and reporters - being human - are always open to subjective interpretation rather than objective reporting. This is not a fault in their skills so much as the nature of humanity.

However, in a way the guardian of reporting was always 'official speak'. In other words, notwithstanding printing errors such as miss-spelling or jumbling up of the letters, the printed word was always caged in a manner whereby the meaning was ultimately clear and written in official terms.

Not so today.

Take this report from the New York Post (via entitled Scientist guilty of trying to kill Americans - some portion of which are reproduced below for the purposes of analysis and comment.

1. Apparently pleading not-guilty is reserved only for those who are found innocent:
Aafia Siddiqui, 37, was found guilty by a jury in Manhattan federal court even after she denied charges that she had opened fire on US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.

'even after she denied charges' - well, most or at least many people plead not-guilty in court but how many times do reputable journalists comment on the case in this way? Whether actually guilty or innocent, if she pleads not-guilty then it is expected that she would deny the charges for Gods sake - what sort of brain wrote this?

2. Inappropriate use of abbreviation

The Pakistani neuroscientist, who feds claimed was an al-Qaeda associate, was arrested two years ago carrying handwritten plans for a radioactive "dirty bomb" along with a list of New York landmarks.

The term 'feds' is not only meaningless but inappropriate in a newspaper (possibly OK for a school yard though). Federal Police? Federal Bureau of Investigation? Fed-up citizens who are sick of year 3 school experience students writing press articles?

3. Reporter alleges police assault on potentially innocent victim

It took a jury two days to convict Siddiqui, who became famous for her loud outbursts that often got her kicked out of the courtroom.

According to this creative writer, the person was kicked. I think they meant 'removed' or even 'forcibly removed' but that's not what it says. The term 'kicked out' really does only apply to schoolboy language and NOT to an official press report.

I would have expected much more from the New York Post but then perhaps - with the current ecconomic climate - they have handed over press reporting to grandchildren at kindergarten.....

It may not seem important but it is. Press reporting IS important. It is an important job and essential for the good running of any nation. That people can be informed, objectively, without bias, using the correct language, grammar and spelling, is an essential part of mass communication and something that the world needs to maintain in a responsible manner - not in the slipshod manner that seems to be becoming the norm.

No, the New York Post is not alone in this. But as a responsible newspaper they need to set the example and show the way.

Wonko the Sane has spoken.

No comments: