A Curmudgeon Rerun: "Reporting Crime"
("Reporting Crime" first ran on August 6th, 2018.)
These days, for better or worse, many of us are watching more news than usual. If you’re anything like me (and I’d certainly like to imagine that you are), all this news viewing has made you keenly aware of a deeply troubling pattern of lawlessness, immorality, and abuse. I’m referring of course to newscasters’ inexplicable omission of requisite parts of speech in their reports, a crime perpetrated with increasing regularity in recent years. It’s hard to watch such brutality.
Topping the list of missing words is the verb “is,” along with its various conjugations. Have you noticed?
The president saying today that job growth numbers have risen for the second quarter in a row.
Reuters today reporting record turnout at the voting booth.
The White House Press Secretary once more refusing to address questions about the new health plan.
IS! IS, dammit! The president is saying. Reuters is reporting. The White House Press Secretary is refusing.
What happened to poor, innocent “is”? How did this perfectly legitimate word slip out of reporters’ once-correct sentence structures? Was it the fault of Bill Clinton, who famously called into question the definition of the word? Or . . . what? The Curmudgeon is baffled. (Note the proper use of the word “is,” for those who may still be in doubt about its meaning.)
Of course, the trend goes well beyond just dropping “is.” Other words sometimes fall by the wayside as well. For instance, I’m sure we’ve all become inured to the kind of strange truncating often heard in weather reports:
Thanks, Christie. Record highs this weekend. National Weather Service warning of temperatures in the 80s. Want to be sure to use plenty of sunscreen.
What in the Sam Hill do these people have against perfectly nice, useful, and in this case, grammatically necessary words like “anticipate,” “the,” “is,” and “you’ll”?
One expects reporters to sound educated—more so than the rest of us. They're supposed to be expert communicators, adept with language. Those are the standards. So this bizarre new reporterspeak does little for their credibility (which, let’s face it, is already being dangerously called into question these days). In truth, it makes them sound like utter nincompoops. I say that because I never miss an opportunity to use the word “nincompoops.” And if the descriptor fits, why resist the urge?
Look, I get it; airtime is expensive. You don’t want to drag things out by littering your reports with every single word that is needed to form an English sentence, right? I mean, that’s going to add literally seconds to your broadcast, and who can afford that? I also understand that life is moving faster these days and that saving time seems to be of paramount importance for some reason I can’t grasp (see “Speed Writing," March 26, 2018). So, my God, newscasters taking time to say "is" would just muck up our plan to get back as quickly as possible to all the very important things we're doing on our phones.
So, with “is” out of the way, I imagine the next to go will be that boring old “the.” And once they’ve disposed of "the," why bother keeping “of”? I mean, no one likes “of.” It just slows things down. Welcome to the newscast of the future:
Good evening. Here now news. On Hill today, Senator Smith accusing Senator Jones violating Constitution. This third time questions raised. Other news, remake Gone With Wind in production. Back with more after break.
Honest to God, sometimes I just want throw TV out window.