Thursday, April 28, 2011

The term 'a portrait emerged'

On the blog Capital, Tom McGeveran writes about about New York Times staffers' use of the term "a portrait emerged" and variations thereof. In providing plenty examples, he shows how the term has lost a clear meaning, because it is thrown around in a wide variety of circumstances.

McGeveran writes that the term "is so distinctly Times-ian that it is used everywhere someone wants to project the gravitas of the Times." It strikes me as absolutely right. Many people outside that newspaper have borrowed the term, perhaps for the purpose McGeveran cites. Search Google News now and then for evidence of the term's popularity.

What other terms can reporters choose when summarizing research? Perhaps it is not a matter of alternatives or options, but what words can work in a given situation. Or, to take a step back, do reporters need to summarize in the first place?

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