Michael Moynihan writes about a journalistic practice that annoys the hell out of me too, the overuse of terms like “exclusive” and “breaking news” to promote usually mundane and non-exclusive stories. It’s especially ridiculous when a news outlet refers to an “exclusive interview” of someone who has been making the rounds of all the big news outlets, giving interviews. If the subject has done 14 interviews this week, your interview isn’t “exclusive.”
What follows are a list of words routinely employed by journalists that must, to again invoke Orwell, be committed to the “memory hole.”
Exclusive: Possibly the most misused word in journalism, and one that should be used only when an interview subject submits to questioning by your news organization and no other, often on specific topic (Lance Armstrong’s chat with Oprah qualifies as an exclusive). The Oxford English Dictionary defines “exclusive” as something “in which others have no share, esp. of journalistic news or other published matter.”
So there is ABC News’s Diane Sawyer advertising an exclusive preview of a forthcoming exclusive interview with President Obama. An odd thing, too, considering it is the president’s responsibility to convey to the country his views on various policy issues, which he does frequently. Indeed, the Nexis archives are littered with “exclusive” interviews with the Obamas, sometimes occurring within weeks of each other and covering similar topics.
And this one:
Walked it back: If a politician or public figure is caught lying, journalists will likely employ the gentle euphemism that a statement has been “walked back.” Avoid if possible; the phrase “[x] was caught lying and sheepishly acknowledged it” is preferable.
Absolutely. And this applies not only to lying but just plain saying something stupid. I also wish the media would stop claiming someone apologized when they didn’t. “I apologize to anyone I may have offended” is not an apology. An apology requires recognizing that you said or did something wrong or bad and being sorry for your behavior, not for the reactions of others.