(Note: This post is not meant to disparage broadcast news writers, who work their asses off with little thanks under tight deadlines and constant pressure to get stories filed fast and accurately, like Sisyphus rolling eternal boulders. They also put up with griping anchors who haven’t had their coffee yet. The following is my opinion, and its value is only what you give it.)
When someone says, “It goes without saying,” there’s a 99.99% chance that the following words prove the disclaimer and did not need to be said. “It goes without saying, but news anchors shouldn’t gripe so much.”
But some things really do go without saying, or should go without saying, especially in the broadcast news biz. Here are some words this constantly griping, coffee-starved radio news anchor thinks should go without saying.
“Police are investigating a multiple murder” as the lead. Is the investigation the story? Shouldn’t it be the multiple murder?
Likewise, “Police are investigating” or “Police are continuing to investigate” tacked on to the end of a story. That’s not news. It would be news if the police were not investigating the multiple murder. Or a plane crash. Or fire.
Speaking of “continuing” or “continues,” I’ve never liked those words in news stories. The writer is signaling the viewer/listener that this is old, slightly used, and a little outdated because the thing we already told you about is continuing. “The search for intelligent dolphins ruling an undersea kingdom continues.” How about, “Intelligent dolphins rule an undersea kingdom, and I for one would like to welcome our new dolphin overlords”?
Excuse me. An intelligent dolphin just walked in and rewrote the above paragraph. Before, it was about a continuing search for a murder suspect. We can assume the search is continuing if the murderer hasn’t been caught.
“Actually” and “in fact” never belong in news stories. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story where they added anything. Those words are never needed unless you’re directly quoting someone who used them.
Adjectives are almost always never needed. I would sell my soul if I could ban the words “horrific” and “tragic” from stories. They’ve become so overused John Oliver could make a “Now This” montage of a million anchors reading them. If every tragedy is horrific, then none of them are.
My primary philosophy is, “Don’t say in ten words what you can say in five.” But then, I am an emotionless anchor machine whose only joys are drinking coffee and griping about writers.
Now here’s a terrifically written story: “A news anchor has been murdered. Police say a group of overworked writers are the prime suspects. An autopsy has revealed no coffee in his system. Police are not investigating.”
(No dolphins were harmed in this post.)