The words used in news can report — or distort: Part II

The lead headline in at washingtonpost.com this afternoon reads: “‘Occupy’ demonstrations turn violent, go global.”

To me that implies that the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States turned violent today.  From what I read, it did not. The violence took place in Rome. And though the AP, without attribution, said the demonstration “was part of” the Occuply Wall Street demonstrations, it also said that the protests that began in New York “linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe.”

It is correct that a very loose-knit coalition of protests took place globally today. They all had something to do with disgruntlement over the world’s economy.  But to call these ‘Occupy’ demonstrations seems to mislead.  And to say that the Occupy movement has turned violent misleads even more.

Again. As far as I can tell, no violence took place in this country today. The protests in Europe — take Greece, for example, or the riots in London — have been marked by violence for months.

When reporters don’t take care with the words of news, they slant the news as well. Words have impact and shape perception. Is this the carelessness of 24-7 news, an effort to discredit the protests or something entirely different?  I suspect it’s simply sloppiness, but who knows.

One thing is certain: Reporters in these turbulent times need, as I wrote a day ago, to redouble their efforts to be precise as they report.  Otherwise they will become part of the problem rather than mere chroniclers of events.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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