There’s a secret language that exists among journalists and I may lose my press credentials for revealing some of our secrets here today. But in the age of fake news accusations and overly opinionated cable news networks, I figured I’d come clean and let readers in on a few of our trade secrets.
First, as a reporter, always blame an editor for inserting or failing to fix a mistake in a story.
And second, use your words. We news folks occasionally write between the lines, so to speak. And while our linguistic code is pretty universal within our industry, it’s often lost on our readers. So allow me to translate a few common journalistic jabs:
When we write “Officials,” it‘s because no one wants to read — or type — the long-winded bureaucratic titles of government employees and private sector executives
Admittedly, “recently,” translates to, “within the past few weeks, but l don‘t have the precise date in front of me, and it’s not particularly relevant to the story.”
“Controversial” means “juicy and worth reading past the headline.”
“Outspoken” means “rabidly seething devotee.”
And then there are a few more subjective nuances.
In our job, the most important things anyone can do to gain our trust and respect are telling the truth and returning our calls before deadline.
That said, consider the following statements:
“Joe Key could not be reached for immediate comment late Thursday.” Sounds OK, right?
Translation: No hard feelings. It was a late-breaking story and I didn’t even try to reach him until late in the afternoon or even early evening.
And then there’s, “Joe Key declined to comment.” Translation: He called or texted us back, but either isn’t authorized to comment or was advised by his lawyer not to say a word. Again, no hard feelings, and thanks for getting back to me, Joe.
But then we get into, “Joe Key refused to return repeated phone calls, emails and text messages left throughout the day Wednesday.”
Translation: This chucklehead has been intentionally dodging me all day. I know he’s not on a plane. His assistant already sold him down the river. No one is that unreachable these days.
So the next time you’re reading a news article, see if you can tell who fits into which category. Just don’t tell anyone where you learned our language.