Surge in Editorializing?

“Increase.” “Intensification.” “Escalation.” “Spike.” “Worsening.”

There are a lot of words the Associated Press could have used today to describe bad news about “a (blank) of bombings and shootings around Baghdad” on the Star Tribune’s front page.

But the verb it selected was “surge.”

I’m all for editorial jabs at the verbal gymnastics of White House wordsmiths and the subsequent submissiveness of the news media. But the digs don’t belong in news reporting.

– Loveland

4 thoughts on “Surge in Editorializing?

  1. I’m tempted to say this administration deserves to be hoist on its own verbal petard — if I knew what a petard is. Live by the surge, die by the surge. Joe sounds proper and reasonablet when he says the so-called objective media shouldn’t be rubbing the administration’s face in its failures through smartass headlines on news stories.

    But I’ve got a problem, as I’ve said ad nauseum before, with this objective reporting. On the front page the president can call an escalation a surge. The media then call it a surge forevermore, and the debate reported in the news columns and on the air is about whether the surge is a good idea or not — not whether it’s ludicrous to call it a surge. Commentaries about the power of language choices are relegated to the op-ed page or to “Reliable Sources” on CNN or “On The Media” on NPR, which are seen and listened to by about half a dozen news junkies who need to get out to bars more (I among them).

    So let’s do have stories on the front page, on the AOL sign-in page, right up front on the web and on the air challenging word choices. My brother and I were looking at an American Legion magazine at our mom’s nursing home this morning, and in a story about the troops in Iraq one soldier said he’d rather be fighting terrorists in Iraq than in his back yard. That’s an example of how powerful word choice can be — and Republicans are masters at word choice. Direct-mail-meister Rove decides what to call something, and the media call it just that.

    So I kind of admire the headline writer who said “surge this, baby” as he or she wrote that headline.

    Because communication plays such a huge role in our way of life, it should be scrutinized more fully and more openly. When more than 40% of Americans still think Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11, the media needs to be much more critical of what any politician from any party says and how she or he says it. Otherwise, the side that’s best at the name game wins the contest before it starts.

  2. ellenm53 says:

    I want to comment on this post and Loveland’s thought on “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” from three days ago.
    Years ago Leslie Stahl on the CBS Evening News did a devastating report on the negative effects budget cuts sought/approved the Reagan administration were having domestically. As Stahl described the increased numbers of children who were not now going to be receiving early-childhood education, video rolled of the President visiting with toddlers at a daycare. As Stahl’s audio reported on cuts in aid to the elderly, the video showed Reagan shaking hands with old folks in a nursing home. This report went on for three minutes…which is what Christ will get when he returns to earth.
    The next day, Stahl received a phone call from the WH communications director who said he was calling to THANK HER for the story. “Thank me?” she said. But it wasn’t even a positive script. Doesn’t matter, came the reply. No one in American TV land listens to the words; they just look at the pictures and THOSE pictures had been great.

  3. Hornseth says:

    I’m gonna lay even money that it wasn’t an intentional dig.

    Just to see what would happen, and because this is the kind of thing I love an excuse to do, I ran a ProQuest search on “surge of bombings” (thank you kindly, Minneapolis Public Library free online research databases) and found 100+ examples of pre-Bush use of that phrase in newspapers — as far back as an NYT book review about U.S. desegregation in 1959. Every decade since but the 60s was represented, oddly enough. Stories about Algeria, Israel, Northern Ireland, Chile, West Germany included it.

    Regardless of one’s opinion of the the Adminstration, they don’t own “surge” — they’re just borrowing it.

  4. jl says:

    I agree that the use of the word surge is not improper or unusual. But the times in which it was used need to be taken into consideration.

    This lede was written in the midst of very visible wrangling about the propriety of the usage of that particular word. Were that not the case, I would be less inclined to be in black helicopter mode.

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