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It’s a Question of Respect

All journalists – print or otherwise – have responsibilities to their respective audiences.

In no particular order these include: one, being factual. Just as a physician’s overriding philosophy is first do no harm, the journalists’ overriding mantra should be first, be factual. Tell the truth. It’s not rocket science. No matter how contrary the facts may be relative to your personal beliefs, place truthfulness above all else.

We hold somethings to be self-evident. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily so.

Back to the matter at hand, a good journalist is also thorough… and questioning… and tenacious… etc. You get the idea.

When journalists are genuinely truthful and thorough, etc., they demonstrate a certain respect for their audiences. And that’s a good thing.

So why is it that contemporary journalists think nothing of disrespecting their audiences in other ways. What’s top of mind today is: acronyms. Acronyms are very useful. They save time, they save effort, they save space, etc. They’re very handy… when used properly.

It’s becoming increasingly popular for journalists to toss acronyms around like it’s nobody’s business. Here’s a hint: if your audience isn’t familiar with the acronyms with which you so blithely litter the landscape, it is nobody’s business… because they don’t know what in the wide world of sports you’re talking about.

According to Associated Press style (something which we’re betting is a foreign concept to many of today’s journalists), the proper way to use acronyms is to spell it out completely in your first reference and use the acronym for all successive uses. Oh, by the way, that’s considered to be “proper” not because it’s dictated by long-ago hierarchy, it’s proper because it demonstrates a degree of respect for your audience.

But why would you want to show respect for your audience when, by using an acronym that few (if any) in your audience understand without explanation, you can portrary yourself as someone who is “in the know,” someone who is more enlightened than the audience.

Isn’t that what modern journalism is all about? Talking down to your audience.

Maybe that’s just one more reason that journalists today are held on the same level of respect as used car salesmen… or worse, members of Congress.

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