Choice of words


I am a retired newspaper reporter-editor and university journalism professor. I taught young reporters the importance and power of words – and clarity of writing. So a front-page story in the Tuesday, June 25 edition of the Daily Press caught my attention for the wrong reason.

The headline drew my attention: “Man gets jail for baseball bat assault.” But the lead was not clear: “An Escanaba man was sentenced to a year in jail for assaulting a man with a baseball bat Monday in Delta County Circuit Court.”

I highly doubt the assault took place in court. If it did I wish I had been there to witness if the bat was a Louisville Slugger.

I don’t completely fault the reporter as an editor should have caught and fixed the mistake.

Journalists are not perfect. But unclear writing is one of the reasons newspapers are struggling more today than ever before in retaining readers.

The sentencing happened Monday, not the assault, which we learn much later in the story that it happened Jan. 23 in a house.

A police TV show which aired years ago always had the duty sergeant tell the troops before they hit the mean streets: “Let’s be careful out there.”

Those in the news businesses also need to be careful with how they use words.

John Irby



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