Bullshit News Writing

I am feeling completely uncharitable this evening, so it is time to criticize something that has always upset me. Bullshit, dancing-around-the-issue news writing. Witness, for example, the following article:

Elderly driver dies after car hits house

A woman in her seventies died Wednesday after her car struck a house in the Blossom park neighbourhood.

There is too much of this past-tense, verbs-being-applied-to-impersonal-nouns bullshit in news writing. Nobody ever assigns blame any more. The car struck the house, oil was spilled, a woman died of knife wounds – like its the fault of the inanimate objects in all these cases.

Are news organizations so desperate to cover their asses and not offend anyone that they’ll remove the heart and soul from the interesting news they’re trying to report, and replace it with boring, flat, featureless pap that will neverless get the facts across in the least-suable style possible?

This lady didn’t die because a car hit a house. She died because she had a heart attack while at the wheel, lost control of her automobile, and crashed her car into someone’s home.

  • Geoff



    Until the autopsy is complete, it’s not known why she died, so it would be speculative to report that she died of a heart attack (based only on firefighters’ belief, not doctors or paramedics). She might also have had a seizure or just been an incompetent driver and died just due to the crash itself. All the definitely known information is given in the headline and first two paragraphs, and possible explanations are discussed after. Stating anything more as fact could be misleading or inaccurate.

    In the knife-wound example, assuming she was stabbed, it’s probably illegal or journalistically unethical to report the she was murdered until someone’s been found guilty in court.

    If you want sensationalized reporting, watch Action News?

  • Codie



    I would rather draw complaint to the news worthiness of celebrities! now that is bull! I do not give a popcorn fart to the wind on who did what with who, or who’s having babies with what. I think focus must be brought on the real issues. I believe in this 24 HR news gathering era that we are apart of, a lot of interesting pertinent information falls through the cracks.

  • Jeff



    Codie, you remember the definition of ‘celebrity,’ don’t you? “He’s famous for being famous.” That might be Yet Another Yogiism, but probably not. Either way, you’re right; a paper stocked with celebrity gossip is definitely the Berra of bad news.