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Friday, May 22, 2015

A pet peeve

A distinct change has occurred in the language used by TV news anchors and reporters. The change has become so widespread, so pervasive, and so persistent that it is weighing on my nerves. In fact you would be correct in assuming it is a pet peeve of mine.

Obviously someone somewhere has decided in their almighty wisdom that this change would benefit the news media, giving them a "softer tone" and making them approachable. That may be well and good. But if it is done using a phrase that is not and never has been connected with the context of news coverage, then somebody obviously has a loose screw.

Who the heck are teaching these news anchors and reporters these days?

My pet peeve is this. A TV news talking head reports, say, that a government agency within a state has such a backlog of cases that lives are placed in danger. This is often followed by the following statement: "We reached out to the head of the agency for comment, but our calls were not returned."

They "reached out?" The phrase is most often associated with personal, emotional issues, such as a psychiatrist who says he/she "reached out" to the patient to attempt to break through the walls they have erected to distance themselves from others. Another common use of the phrase has to do with love relationships, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc. A person may say something like, "I have tried to reach out to you as best I can, but you turn away all my attempts. You prefer to stay in your shell."

Now tell me, what in the world are news personnel doing using this term that is rich in emotional content and denoting an aspect of our most intimate relationships?

"We reached out to the Department of Social Services for comment." Oh, did you? Did you hope to seat them all in a circle and delve into touchy feely issues, urging the state agency to bear their souls and then sing Kumbaya? Why not use the precise term that accurately describes what you did. You contacted the agency for comment, nothing more. You wanted to ask questions. You wanted information. What you intended to do was in no way "reaching out." You contacted them for information that would make a good news story on your 6 p.m. broadcast.

So get real. I don't care what some school of journalism says about it, or even what some half-brained local news director tells you. Cut the "reaching out" ca ca and be precise. If you CONTACTED someone, then say so, for heaven's sake.

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