I do not read the news much these days.
I would like to say it is because the school of journalistic thought has become one of hysterical pandering over nonsense. If the topic of the hour isn’t Brexit and someone bleating on about the lack of progress, then it is about Trump or whatever else happens to be trending on Twitter at the time. I would like to say that is the reason, because that should be reason enough.
If I wanted to elaborate, however, I could say that the hysterical pandering has come because there has been an almost biblical culling of the objective. The op-ed has somehow wormed its way from being a short little note from the editor in the middle of the newspaper about his family’s holiday in Skipton to the primary way in which news is reported. In online media, no doubt a result of valuing clicks and hits more than journalistic integrity, articles purporting to be objective are nothing more than subjective rambling about why you should also like or dislike something that they like or dislike. Go to any ‘news’ website and you will find virtual reams of titles that compose of two parts: [This thing exists], [This is what your opinion of said thing should be]. It’s subjectivism at best, and crass proselytisation at worst, the attempts of the author to force their opinion down yours and everybody else’s throat.
In a way, I can understand—if not tolerate—the encroachment of subjectivism into the news, especially when it comes to political and social issues. If somebody has an investment in an idea, then it is only natural that they try to argue for that position. The manner in which they argue is entirely dependent on the ability of the person making the argument, of course. Orwell had a refined ability at arguing his point; the person ranting on the internet, severely less so.
What I cannot and will not accept, however, is the failing standard of the application of the English language, especially when it comes to journalism.
Now, as part of my ‘other’ life, I am involved in archiving and conservation. A large portion of my time is working to preserve historical documents and artefacts. I am often looking at or transcribing correspondence and documents and news reports from decades and even centuries ago; and in these reports I find impeccable grammar each and every time, regardless of if from some learned cleric or parliamentarian or even from a ‘lowly’ private recording his thoughts about his time in service. Perhaps the old schoolmasters who haunt the tales of Dickens, rapping the knuckles of every student who cannot recall Latin third declensions had it right.
When I do dare to open a news article written by today’s journalists, it is an assault of bad syntax, terrible grammar and, quite often, a word that does’t mean what the journalist thinks it means. How the journalist doesn’t stop to look at a dictionary or thesaurus comes across to me as particularly alabasterous. But the most insulting part is the simple lack of diligence to reread what they have written.
Here is one example, from my local newspaper. It is an article about an act of vandalism against some tables and a sign outside a food hall.
“I think the worst part is that it’s very disheartening for staff. We don’t charge the public to attend our venue and they have lots of think that they can enjoy for free.”
The emphasis is, of course, mine. As is my outrage. How does something like that not get picked up? Is proofreading no longer a staple of journalism? If the Writer died decades ago, is it now time to call time on the life of the Editor? What makes this worse, is that, as it was an online article, it tells you when the original upload occurred as well as all revisions and edits. For this particular story, updates were still being made two days after the story was first published. And what makes that even worse, is that the author of the piece once wrote an article in which he mocked a local sign-maker for not proofreading a sign before placing it over a shop. Hypocrisy, thy name is [redacted].
I know what you’re all going to say: a-ha, but there are errors in your work!
I’m not a professional journalist, I don’t have an editorial team supervising me, I don’t get paid literally millions of pounds to make sure my semi-colons are in the correct place.
While I cannot call for the mass flogging of those who do not know the difference between your and you’re, I will have to make a different suggestion. Buy a dictionary, buy a thesaurus, buy one of the countless number of books written on how to form a sentence. Don’t immediately press upload. Look at the work, one, two, maybe three times. Change the font. Read it aloud. Make the computer read it aloud.
If you do all of these things and your sentences still don’t sound right, then have the self-awareness to pack it in and do something else with your life. Or get hired by the Guardian.
But then again, this is just an opinion piece. Feel free to discard this as you please.