Thursday, May 30, 2013

Say What?


Every morning I watch the news on CNN and find myself repeatedly confronted with the realization that,  compared to the reporters working for this news organization, my verbal skills leave a great deal to be desired.   They use words and expressions I’ve never even heard of before, and pronounce  proper names and certain terms in ways which I can only describe as uh, novel.  Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Commenting on the Jodi Arias trial,  a reporter speculated whether Ms. Arias will make a statement during the sentencing part of her trial and then added, “We’ll have to see whether that statement detriments her or not.”  I had no idea the noun ‘detriment’ could become a verb.

Ashleigh Banfield, reporting on the same trial, said that “it will remain to be seen if she (Ms. Arias) will get the death penalty for her murder.”  I didn’t know Jodi Arias was dead, but now that she is (I heard it on CNN!) I have a question - if the jury decides on the death penalty, will Jodi be resurrected first, or will they skip that part, and pronounce sentence on the corpse?

Banfield then commented that “Arias will have to appeal to the jury as to whether she should be spared the death penalty”, and that “daily, this story confronts us with yet another right angle.”  I should appeal to her as to whether ‘left angles’ will leave me equally speechless.

Commenting on another trial in which the judge downgraded the jury’s unanimous guilty verdict from murder, to voluntary manslaughter, Banfield condensed the testimony of the defendant to “he said the house guest threatened to kill him, so he had to kill him right back.”  Yes, indeed.

She went on to add that “the judge downwardly departed from what the jury decided.”  I think I might do well to ‘downwardly depart’ from listening to Banfield in the future.  

Chris Cuomo, another CNN star, reported on a story from Dagestan, calling it “Dagostan”, thereby clearing up the long-standing mystery as to where all Dagos come from.


A hung jury in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias’ trial, prompted Nancy Grace, a regular ‘expert’ contributor to CNN in the field of law, to say that she was surprised at this result given, she explained, that the jury was selected through “voir dire” (oral questioning of potential jurors during the jury selection process), pronouncing this “voy dire”, as in ‘Savoy’ and  ‘dire circumstances’.  ‘Voying’ Nancy Grace is most definitely ‘dire’ to the welfare of correct pronunciation, and not just when it comes to legal terms.

During a congressional hearing on the misbehavior of the IRS, congressman Louie Gohmert complained about the “aspersions made on his asparagus.” Amusing, yes, surprising, no.  For many politicians, particularly of late, English appears not to be their native language.   That the same can be said of CNN reporters and some of their regular ‘expert’ contributors, working for an organization which touts itself as the leader in news reporting, is unacceptable.  In a parody of a news broadcast their constant verbal blunders would be something to laugh at, but as part of the real thing, they are just laughable.

It should also be noted that, whereas individuals outside of CNN, asked to provide commentary to a news story, are entitled to voice their opinions, news reporters, charged with informing the public of events, do not have that prerogative.   Their only job is to report the facts and pose questions to, or soliciting input from, others, all the while keeping their own bias to themselves.  The definition of the verb ‘report’, (from whence the noun ‘reporter’ comes from), is “to relate details of (an event or incident); to recount or describe (something)”. 

One of the basics of Journalism 101 is that a news story should answer the five W’s and one H, i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how.  Period.  No more, no less.  That concept continues to elude CNN’s John Berman, whose ‘reporting’ is invariably peppered with adjectives such as ‘incredible’, ‘shocking’, ‘horrific’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘staggering’, and the like.  Most often, according to Mr. Berman, the story is ‘simply amazing’.  

When speaking of the devastation in Oklahoma, for example, a reporter is well justified to describe the damage as ‘wide-spread’, ‘extensive’, or even ‘complete’.  Saying that it is ‘heart-breaking’, ‘alarming’ or ‘astonishing’ is not news reporting, it is news commentary.  All well and good except that, for many CNN journalists, the line between the two has entirely disappeared, with the result that we, the audience, cannot avoid learning of the day’s events through the prism of these journalists’ bias, one which, unfortunately, has become a permanent part of ‘reporting’ at CNN.

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