Watch your words and your tone

By · Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Editorializing is a word we don’t hear much, perhaps because everyone has a point of view and also has the means to share it.

But with news stories, editorializing is not considered a good thing.

Here’s why:

Consider these two examples of how editorializing can happen:

  1. Word choice. Some words are used commonly to mean one thing when they actually mean another. For example, consider the word “reform.” It is used often in stories to mean change. But Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines “reform” this way: “To make better by removing faults and defects; correct.” So when a writer explains a plan to “reform” something, that writer is actually saying the plan will make it better. The word is subjective, not objective. A better word choice than “reform” would be “change.”
  2. Tone. A conversational tone can be refreshing, but it also can lead to editorializing. Consider this example: It’s about time the school board took a stand on teaching standards. Such a tone would be inappropriate for a news story because it sounds like the writer’s opinion. The problem could be solved by adding attribution: Parents say it’s about time the school board took a stand on teaching standards. An even better solution, however, would be to merely state the facts. Parents told the school board last night that they are pleased with the vote to raise teaching standards after several failed attempts over the past three years.

When we understand how editorializing can happen and why we should avoid it in news stories, we are also helping the audience to understand us. And that’s a solid way to maintain our trusted bond.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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