Newspapers: Words Still Matter

by Kerry Dougherty

After 42 years in newspapers, having dedicated my adult life to that once-proud industry, I now read papers with a sense of dread. All too often that turns to disgust.

Rarely do I stumble on a newspaper piece that delights anymore.

The reasons are many, and you’ve heard them all before: Newspapers, which once were flush with money, are circling the drain. Staffing is down sharply, senior writers and editors have been pushed out the door and the journalists left behind are overworked and often inexperienced.

Beyond that, there has been a seismic shift in the world of news. Where once reporters were expected to strive for objectivity, they are now allowed to sprinkle commentary into headlines and stories.

Hand me any newspaper and I’ll find you an example in under five minutes.

Over the weekend, I saw an AP headline that ran in my local paper that — while technically correct — managed to toss gasoline on the seething defund-the-police movement.

Here it is:

Police killings. Would it have killed the copy editor who slapped this inflammatory headline on the piece to simply call them police-involved shootings?

Killings suggests something cold-blooded, deranged. Murder, even. We can argue about the tragedy of Ma’Khia Bryant of Columbus, but anyone who’s watched the tapes of the shooting can see that the officer reacted to save the life of the girl she was about to stab.

Odd. While the Associated Press is worried about offending women who sleep with married men — newspapers have been told by AP not to call these women “mistresses” anymore — it has no qualms about painting police officers as cold-blooded killers.

Any wonder why circulation is plummeting and trust in the media is at an all-time low?

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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10 responses to “Newspapers: Words Still Matter”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “hand me”.

    Yes, hand me Facebook or FAUX News or the many blogs who claim they are “news” and I’ll show you far worse than mainstream news.

    We have folks that read and believe conspiracy theories while blathering about “bias” in the main stream media.

    That’s right. There IS bias so the solution: the worst stuff conceivable – posted to blogs, twitter and FB – masquerading as facts… people choose this over the mainstream media “bias”!

    frying pan into the fire….

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    There is a difference between a police “shooting” in which the person shot goes to the hospital and a “shooting” in which the person shot goes to the morgue. Why fuzz over the difference? In most circumstances when a police officer kills a suspect, that killing is justified. But it is still a killing.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Meanwhile, a Virginia deputy shot a man armed only with a cordless phone as he called 911.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      CNN? CNN? good gawd!

      oh and yes… Spotsylvania…

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    Meanwhile, across the river in DC two cops totaled their squad cars after drag racing each other at 5pm on a crowded street.

    I take Kerry’s point about how “words matter” but so do the actions of the police. Pulling a gun instead of a taser, beating a guy over an expired inspection sticker, shooting a man with a cordless phone 10 times, drag racing patrol cars ….

    Maybe the words are becoming justified.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    Meanwhile, the Virginia State Police finally fired a trooper who declared himself “a specimen” and threatened an “ass whooping” over an expired inspection sticker.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      NBC News? LORD! not FAUX ‘news” or a blog?

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      What I got out of that video was just how bad the judgement of the trooper was. Surely he knew the video would probably be his undoing – and really – what other law enforcement agency would want him after that?

      Some folks seem bound and determined to be stupid.

      Would I trust that trooper to use good judgement in related issues? No way.

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Handwriting on the wall. The open season is coming to an end and the few are trying to bag as many as possible before the DoJ puts in restrictions, tags and creel limits.

    New police training and procedures.

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