The first paragraph of this TV news story from St. Louis is a masterpiece of Orwellian doublespeak and passive voice:
FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) – A shooting in Ferguson has tensions riding high between residents and police. Saturday afternoon, a police involved shooting occurred at the Canfield Green apartment complex in the 2900 block of Canfield. A teenager was shot and killed. An officer from the Ferguson Police Department was involved in the shooting.
Here’s how the first paragraph should have read instead:
A Ferguson police officer shot a teenager at the Canfield Green apartment complex in the 2900 block of Canfield on Saturday afternoon.
Why is that so difficult? Why did a simple one-sentence lead turn into four kludgy sentences?
The answer is simple: The KTVI reporters, like most mainstream media reporters, presumably have a close relationship with the police department and don’t want to experience pushback from their sources. As I wrote months ago:
This unwillingness to offend powerful sources was named years ago by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky as “sourcing” … Obviously police departments are also on that list of official sources, which explains very well why police who make enormously embarrassing mistakes often vanish from headlines, leaving only an object (the “suspect”) and the action that mysteriously happened (“shot” or “killed”) without any apparent cause.
This kind of nonsense will only stop when these journalists receive pushback just as strong or stronger from communities affected by these so-called “police involved shootings.” Journalists ought to be in the business of telling the truth, not obfuscating it on behalf of powerful interests … as the New York Times did for years by refusing to use the word “torture” to describe, y’know, torture. Jay Rosen has some good thoughts on the NYT’s recent recanting of their policy.