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News Loophole Skirts Journalistic Ethics

Slate‘s Jack Shafer argues that the word loophole should be banned from straight news reporting: “It’s a loaded, partisan word, one that implies wrongdoing and scandal where none exists, and inserting it into a political argument gives the inserter the upper hand. When loophole creeps into news stories, they start to read like editorials.” It’s a fair point that he buttresses with firm examples.

There are other words that reporters and headline writers routinely use that also insinuate wrongdoing without having to actually provide any evidence. My favorite example is claim and its variants, which imply that someone is lying.

I’m sure there are others. What are your candidates for banishment?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    debate
    narrative
    unbiased (and its analogues as a description of news reporting)

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  2. admitted
    fair (though usually by implication that its opposite is unfair; virtually impossible to use objectively)

    Then there are the code words used to casually reinforce preconceptions:
    ultraconservative
    fundamentalist
    assault weapon

    And my favorite method for subtly focusing the narrative:
    some say

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  3. Dale B says:

    In a slightly different vein, I’d ban “may” and “could” from all news reprorts.

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  4. John Burgess says:

    It is reported/understood that…
    According to an anonymous source…

    Selectively pointing out party affiliation of the subject of a report. Name all party affiliations or none.

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  5. Grewgills says:

    death tax
    tax relief

    What words would you substitute for “loophole”, “assault weapon”, or “fundamentalist”?

    I have to whole heartedly agree with getting rid of “some say.”

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  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    In a slightly different vein,Id ban abortion,pro choice, progress ,180 million years,prehistoric,cave man,consensus, and separation of church and state.

    There are other words that reporters and headline writers routinely use that also insinuate rightdoing without having to actually provide any evidence.

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  7. Michael says:

    In a slightly different vein,Id ban abortion,pro choice, progress ,180 million years,prehistoric,cave man,consensus, and separation of church and state.

    Leave it to G.A.Phillips to equate censorship with clarification.

    That said, I’d ban the use of the word “internet”, simply because I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story about it that got anything right.

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  8. Michael says:

    Ok, thinking some more, I would ban:

    “Paris Hilton”
    “Lindsey Lohan”
    “Brittany Spears”

    and whoever the latest “blond white girl” is in the news these days.

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