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John Klima
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 08:02 am:   

OK, here's the thing. While I watch the news, I sit there and correct their grammar and sentence structure as they speak. It drives me crazy that people who theoretically went to college and received degrees in journalism do not know the rules of their native tongue any better than they do [I know, that's a big assumption I'm making]. As my wife (a high-school English teacher) says, "If this is the way professionals speak, what hope do I have of teaching grammar to students?"

Here are two recent examples that made me want to throw the television out the window:

Last night as I got ready for bed: "Plans for a dangerous bridge in New Jersey tonight at 11." I thought, why would they make plans to build a danergous bridge? That doesn't make any sense. Then I realized, they were talking about plans TO FIX a dangerous bridge in New Jersey.

This morning, the newscasters spoke about a man who in 1987 who was convicted of murder and now his conviction might be overturned. In speaking of this, the newscaster said that the possible decision to overturn was due to the hard work of this man's lawyer and "person and person who are fighting his case." [I don't have their names, and it's not relevant to my point] This one stopped me cold. I turned to the tv and practically shouted "fighting FOR his case." Taking what the newscaster originally said, these two people, who are members of the David Wong Support Group (David Wong being the convicted man), are fighting Wong's release, i.e. fighting against; if no modifier is supplied, it is implied that fighting the case is against the case. Which is not what they were doing.

Not that long ago, my morning Channel 4 news from New York was informative, entertaining, and sometimes enlightening. Now it's maddening. The previous hosts/newscasters have both left and the new morning people are just hacks. One time the woman corrected what she had read off the teleprompter, but what she did was take the grammatically correct sentence and make it grammatically incorrect (I believe it was a subject-verb agreement, like deciding to change the sentence from "data were" to "data was"). It's like watching college students do news. "Dude, it's like foggy out, what's up with that?"

Anyone else have good examples of newscasters butchering the language?

JK
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 11:46 am:   

A-hem.

Broadcasters are not journalists. They "rip and read", or babble off the teleprompter, and a lot of these mistakes happen wheh they read material for the first time they never saw before.

Some journalists are VERY good writers. Right?
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 12:42 pm:   

See, I said that was an assumption I was making. I knew that would be wrong. These people in the morning, they are just crap.

And yes, there are many journalists who I think are very good writers. So, I apologize to journalists out there. This thread should be called Newscasters are idiots, in fact, I'll go make a new thread.

JK
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Jeffrey J Lyons
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 07:05 pm:   

I spent 18 years in the radio business including 13 as a broadcast journalist. It is very likely the anchors you watched were reading material they didn't write. That would most likely be the case in NYC with the different broadcast & talent unions that operate in one of the world's largest broadcast markets.

The examples John pointed out were obvious guffaws...even for broadcasting. Or it could have been an unprepared anchor. Ideally you should run through the script at least once but you also have to be professional enough to wing it in the event of a breaking story.

Writing for broadcast is an entirely different animal from print. For one thing you must say as much as possible in as few words as possible (KISS-Keep It Simple Stupid). Better broadcast journalists write and present their news entirely in present tense. It's meant to suggest that it's an ongoing story constantly being updated. And yes you have to throw out your grammar book.

A typical broadcast story should run about 20-30 seconds and might read something like this:


"SIX CAR PILE UP ON I 95. 4 DEAD. 3 HURT. OFFICIALS SAYING THE DRIVER FELL ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL (Drop in 10 second sound byte).
POLICE SERGEANT JOE SMITH, ALSO SUGGESTING DRIVERS SEEK ANOTHER ROUTE."


That's how a story is supposed to read more or less and throughout you would be viewing "B-roll" of wrecked cars and/or police directing traffic. On the teleprompter the story is displayed IN ALL CAPS with excessive and unneeded commas enough to make an editor's head spin. The commas are supposed to represent where to take a pause or a breath. Sometimes it helps the anchor emphasize a word or phrase.

If you're really good at it, a 5 minute news update will cover maybe 8-10 stories depending on how important the topic is. Sure, things like the War in Iraq or the Presidential race get more coverage. Next time really count the number of stories that get pounded into your brain on a CNN Headline Newscast. If you count you might be astonished.

I won awards for this sort of stuff.

The two things broadcast journalism have in common with writing Sci-Fi are long hours and no money.

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