‘Appears to Contradict’

Steve points out some weasel language.

I know this site has lots of journos and journo-academics and journo-nerd-critters reading, so let me ask you something I’ve been wondering about since I started reviewing articles for the newspaper kids I work with: Are reporters just allergic to the definitive now? Is this a thing they’re being taught, to not flat-out say what they know because … why?

I ask because nine times out of ten when I read a story there’s some backing into the actual point, like the “appears to contradict …” above. It just DOES contradict what’s actually known in the world, and not saying that doesn’t serve readers. It also bores the living shit out of readers, which during an age in which we’re all suppposed to be constantly titillated by sensationalistic phenomena or whatever seems … counterproductive. Bloodless. Purposelessly confuzzling.

I mean, my first pro managing editor once told me, “When in doubt, be vague” and it’s a rule I live by quite happily, when I honestly don’t know something. But being pointlessly vague in order to avoid criticism for either political or simply expedient reasons is another thing and when the facts are so clear, that’s what it reads like. Take a goddamn stand. Being wrong doesn’t hurt you as much as being chickenshitted.


One thought on “‘Appears to Contradict’

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I worked 5 years writing government documents around superfund sites. We went to training sessions where they were proud of the use of weasel words and actively encouraged it.

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