Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicago broadcasters warned not to use often misused words, phrases -

Memo puts WGN news staffers at a loss for words

Sure, you’d think the chief executive officer of a company struggling to emerge from bankruptcy and desperate to salvage an $8 billion buyout-gone-bad would have better things to do than pester his underlings with crazy proclamations. But in the case of Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, you’d be wrong.

Randy Michaels (photo from Los Angeles Times)

The man at the top of the troubled media empire took time out of his real job this week to issue a list of words and phrases — 119 of them, to be exact — that must never, ever be uttered by anchors or reporters on WGN-AM (720), the news/talk radio station located five floors below his office in Tribune Tower.

Believe me, I’m not making this up.

WGN news director Charlie Meyerson, good soldier that he is, passed on what he identified as Michaels’ “list of forbidden ‘newsspeak’ words and phrases” in a memo to his staff Monday, with the explicit warning: “Don’t say them on WGN.”

Meyerson, a veteran Chicago newsman, has long championed the idea of delivering the news in a down-to-earth, conversational manner. That’s all well and good. As Meyerson explained in his memo:

“The real goal here is to avoid using words that make you sound like you’re reading, instead of talking — that shatter the image you’re speaking knowledgeably to one person. By not using ‘newsspeak,’ you enhance your reputation as a communicator.”

But Meyerson takes it a step further, directing his staff to keep tabs on each other’s compliance: They’re to report any on-air infractions by their co-workers, making sure to note the precise time and date on “bingo cards” he provided that contain a random assortment of Michaels’ forbidden words. If you ask me, that’s just plain creepy.

What’s even more disturbing is that the CEO of a major institution would engage in such petty and insulting micromanaging of subordinates. Here, without further ado, is Randy Michaels’ complete list of unacceptable expressions on the Tribune Co.’s flagship radio station:

  • “Flee” meaning “run away”
  • “Good” or “bad” news
  • “Laud” meaning “praise”
  • “Seek” meaning “look for”
  • “Some” meaning “about”
  • “Two to one margin” . . . “Two to one” is a ratio, not a margin. A margin is measured in points. It’s not a ratio.
  • “Yesterday” in a lead sentence
  • “Youth” meaning “child”
  • 5 a.m. in the morning
  • After the break
  • After these commercial messages
  • Aftermath
  • All of you
  • Allegations
  • Alleged
  • Area residents
  • As expected
  • At risk
  • At this point in time
  • Authorities
  • Auto accident
  • Bare naked
  • Behind bars
  • Behind closed doors
  • Behind the podium (you mean lecturn) [sic]
  • Best kept secret
  • Campaign trail
  • Clash with police
  • Close proximity
  • Complete surprise
  • Completely destroyed, completely abolished, completely finished or any other completely redundant use
  • Death toll
  • Definitely possible
  • Diva
  • Down in (location)
  • Down there
  • Dubbaya when you mean double you
  • Everybody (when referring to the audience)
  • Eye Rack or Eye Ran
  • False pretenses
  • Famed
  • Fatal death
  • Fled on foot
  • Folks
  • Giving 110%
  • Going forward
  • Gunman, especially lone gunman
  • Guys
  • Hunnert when you mean hundred
  • Icon
  • In a surprise move
  • In harm’s way
  • In other news
  • In the wake of (unless it’s a boating story)
  • Incarcerated
  • Informed sources say . . .
  • Killing spree
  • Legendary
  • Lend a helping hand
  • Literally
  • Lucky to be alive
  • Manhunt
  • Marred
  • Medical hospital
  • Mother of all (anything)
  • Motorist
  • Mute point. (It’s moot point, but don’t say that either)
  • Near miss
  • No brainer
  • Officials
  • Our top story tonight
  • Out in (location)
  • Out there
  • Over in
  • Pedestrian
  • Perfect storm
  • Perished
  • Perpetrator
  • Plagued
  • Really
  • Reeling
  • Reportedly
  • Seek
  • Senseless murder
  • Shots rang out
  • Shower activity
  • Sketchy details
  • Some (meaning about)
  • Some of you
  • Sources say . . .
  • Speaking out
  • Stay tuned
  • The fact of the matter
  • Those of you
  • Thus
  • Time for a break
  • To be fair
  • Torrential rain
  • Touch base
  • Under fire
  • Under siege
  • Underwent surgery
  • Undisclosed
  • Undocumented alien
  • Unrest
  • Untimely death
  • Up in (location)
  • Up there
  • Utilize (you mean use)
  • Vehicle
  • We’ll be right back
  • Welcome back
  • Welcome back everybody
  • We’ll be back
  • Went terribly wrong
  • We’re back
  • White stuff
  • World class
  • You folks
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About The Author

Robert Feder

has been keeping tabs on the media in Chicago for 30 years. A lifelong Chicagoan and graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he was television and radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. At age 14, he founded the first and only Walter Cronkite Fan Club.

Other posts byRobert Feder

169 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Kent Brockman #
    03.10.2010 00:23

    Who the hell would want to work for this idiot or WGN? But in this economy the bosses have employees over a barrel. Encouraging snitching on co-workers creates a hostile work environment. Kinda reminds me of the office scenes in Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. The news people use “newsspeak” because they’re in the news biz! Imagine trying to deliver the days events and worry about being reprimanded for slipping up on every word. Maybe Michaels will have a “newsspeak swear jar”. So stupid. Where’s the list of words for fat, brain-dead CEOs to avoid??
    It would be awesome if the staff got fed up and just rose from their desks and walked out in protest.
    BTW… Randy Michaels photo caption: “I wanna pizza THIS big!”

  2. Thomas Eltrain #
    03.10.2010 00:36

    To be fair, the guy is a world class certifiable idiot.

    In other news…just forget it. Get outta town.

    Great that you lent him a helping hand and put it out there, Feder.

  3. 03.10.2010 00:36

    Wait… If this is not a joke, why is it so damned funny? TribCo execs can’t be clever! What’s going on over there, er, up there… is there no there there?

  4. A Jukes #
    03.10.2010 00:46

    I agree with most of these rules. Get an education.

  5. Garry #
    03.10.2010 00:46

    Several of them are actually intelligent & do need to be enforced.

    Shower activity is diarrhea of the mouth & can be replaced by the far more sensible & shorter “showers”.
    Undocumented alien is just PC speech for illegal alien.
    Senseless murder implies that there are sensible murders.
    Auto accidents are really crashes or wrecks.

    And the pronunciation guide ones make sense, but then why would you hire someone to be a on air newscaster if they say hunnert or eye-rak?

    But I fail to see the dislike for flee or pedestrian.
    Does he want them to say “ran away”? Or call the people in a crosswalk, “walkers”?
    Or was he referring to pedestrian as an adjective?

  6. Richard #
    03.10.2010 00:51

    He listed “Some as in about” twice. Maybe he should proof read before he hands a list of censored words to his staff.

  7. eyeswiredopen #
    03.10.2010 01:08

    What’s the issue here? Every media organisation has lists of banned words. At The Australian nobody’s allowed to use “controversial”, for instance. Why? Because its a cliche. And most of the above are also cliches.

  8. Johanna Cummings #
    03.10.2010 01:13

    Funny thing is, Michaels is dead on regarding most of this misused or overused broadcast vernacular. Guess when things feel out of control at the top, you look for something you can control.

  9. OMG #
    03.10.2010 01:28

    How bizarre is this management team? Can you imagine what Brandmeier would have done with this memo? It’s no wonder he didn’t sign with WGN. Forget the fact that the money they offered him was a joke! What about these ridiculous directives?

  10. Jimmy P. #
    03.10.2010 01:32

    This almost smacks of the initial volley in an ultimate effort to totally eliminate all local news coverage on AM720 and just pull a network news feed at the top and bottom of the hour. I know it`s hard to conceive of the flagship broadcast property of the Chicago Tribune without any local news, but this new edict will certainly make WGN-AM reporters and anchors the laughing stock of Chicago radio. I know WGN`s numbers are very poor in the highly sought-after money demographic (25-54, male & female), but banning whole phrases of the English language are NOT going to change that.

  11. Andre Bovee-Begun #
    03.10.2010 02:11

    You know what, guys? In a surprise move, it’s definitely possible that I actually completely approve of this world-class list.

  12. Meg #
    03.10.2010 02:29

    All I have to say is… WTF? I mean, micromanagement doesn’t even come close to describing this!

  13. Meg #
    03.10.2010 02:31

    Oh, and this list makes me want to get on WGN and say them. How are people not laughing this guy out?

  14. Chris Pena #
    03.10.2010 03:30

    What about makeshift?

  15. 03.10.2010 03:45

    As Emperor of, I find it my mission to balance out Mr. Michaels’ insanity by ensuring my writers utilize these phrases as much as possible to make it seem like we know what we’re talking about. The fact of the matter is that this is definitely possible down in SoCal. We’ll be back.
    -The Emperor!

  16. Jeffrey L. #
    03.10.2010 04:06

    Is this for real? Its not April Fool’s day.

  17. karen casey #
    03.10.2010 04:51

    It seems they are memo crazy at the Tribune. WGN radio personalities were told
    not to exchange pleasant greetings with callers – who are their bread and butter.
    They are censoring some very common everyday expressions and asking collegues to turn
    each other in over trivial nonsense. Are we bringing back journalism McCarthyism ?

  18. Rich Johnson #
    03.10.2010 05:04

    You might be missing the trees for the forest here. Michels’ involvement aside, the list is excellent. It spotlights the worst cliches that radio news has offered up for years in lieu of good writing. I will be copying it and referring to it often in my radio job. My only addition would be ‘parent’s worst nightmare.’ I’ve always wondered what a parent’s best nightmare might be.

  19. 03.10.2010 05:53

    Our top story tonight: Pig Virus has no clue. Stay tuned.

  20. goodoldnumbernine #
    03.10.2010 05:57

    he wants to get rid of all the radiospeak, but he goes by two first names

  21. Martin #
    03.10.2010 06:01

    Wow, Micheals. Seriously? Maybe your free time would be better spent at the gym working off that fat gut instead of in front of a computer slowly pecking with two fingers, a list of words you don’t want the news staff to use.

  22. 03.10.2010 06:06

    As a working broadcaster, I agree that most of the phrases are cliche and can and should be avoided.

    Ratting out your co-workers, that’s a different topic.

  23. Jim Mueller #
    03.10.2010 06:14

    Impossible to monitor and enforce. No self respecting in-house snitch could write fast enough to catch all of those constructions as they’re used each hour of the broadcast day. A few on his list do need to go away (“senseless murder” When does a murder ever make sense?). But “alleged” needs to stay for obvious reasons. I understand what the guy is trying to do. He wants better use of language. Not so much reliance on battered cliches. Unfortunately, he’s making his argument about 25 years too late. We’ve all gotten lazy in the way we write and speak. That’s a cultural shift. His list of words won’t change any of the people he’s targeting. He’s being a fussy old jerk. He should shrug and walk back into his office and close the door.

  24. James Edwards #
    03.10.2010 06:39

    To be fair,the best kept secret is that the legendary Dr Milt Rosenberg would utter the phrase bare naked usually after a commercial break. Really. That’s every parent’s nightmare.

  25. Doug Griffin #
    03.10.2010 06:40

    He gets paid for this? Maybe WGN shouldn’t allow their exec’s to smoke that stuff in the building.

  26. Jeff Hoover #
    03.10.2010 06:50

    Stay classy, Chicago.

  27. 03.10.2010 06:57

    Why does the World’s Greatest Newspaper keep this piece of crap? Water seeks it own level, just look at his new hires. What a shame to see such a great station fall into the toilet. Parent company needs to flush them all away……

  28. 03.10.2010 07:03

    WGN has become the Goldblatt’s of Chicago radio. Soon they will suffer the same fate as the once proud, yet incredibly low end, department store. The list of people rolling over in their graves is far too long to post.

  29. Nick Nixon #
    03.10.2010 07:09

    Frankly, Michaels is dead-on and I laud Charlie Meyerson (oops!) for trying to do a good job. The broadcast news outlets in this town are embarrassingly sloppy and ill-informed. Most on-air personalities are regarded as ignoramuses who probably could not hold a job were it not for their looks and ability to read a script on air. Even the latter is apparently not that big of a job requirement. Hats off to Charlie Meyerson, one of the few outstanding broadcast journalists left in this great city.

  30. Freddie #
    03.10.2010 07:18

    For real? Alleged and Allegedly? I mean, aren’t these words of journalistic fairness? Hell, fairness!

  31. Anonymous Source #
    03.10.2010 07:18

    I agree completely with the list. And while we’re at it can we demand that all TV reporters stop doing the “vagina pose” with their hands? Putting your hands together at the finger tips does not make you look sincere – it makes you look like a douche-bag!

  32. Frank #
    03.10.2010 07:22

    The list is one thing, one paragraph is what made me shake my head:

    >>But Meyerson takes it a step further, directing his staff to keep tabs on each other’s compliance: They’re to report any on-air infractions by their co-workers, making sure to note the precise time and date on “bingo cards” he provided that contain a random assortment of Michaels’ forbidden words. If you ask me, that’s just plain creepy.<<

    To be honest, I would be looking for another gig if I did news at WGN. What is he (Myerson) trying to do? Make everone on his newsteam have to look over thier shoulders? These people are professionals and don't need that.

  33. Bob Rutkas #
    03.10.2010 07:42


    Doesn’t Micheals have more important things to do than to make up a list of clichés? Perhaps he needs more paperclips to count.

    If Zell had a bigger “set” he would fire Micheals and the rest of the management idiots running loose at the “Tower”before all is lost.

    What was Micheals thinking? Of course this would get out. And yes, it make him look like a micro-managing despot and major idiot!

    Has anyone brought this to the attention of Ricky Gervais? We have some great material he for the next “Office!”

  34. Norm Thomas #
    03.10.2010 07:43

    Thank goodness DIVA is on the list…..I was just thinking last week that Judy Pielach really over uses that word in her reports.

  35. Robe4rt #
    03.10.2010 07:44

    Living in Cincinnati I know how ole Benjamin Humel (Randy’s real name) trashed a local 50,000 stations named 700 WLW. Pure junk when he finished with it. Also, when at WFLA in Tampa, he once thumb tacked a female on-air personalities panties to the bulletin board. Nice guy? No way. WGN will be junk when he is finished carving!

  36. Jim #
    03.10.2010 07:45

    The untimely death I can understand. I have never heard of a timely death. Some of the things the pig is asking for is dumb.Such as”white stuff”. I have lived hear all my life and I’ve heard people use that all my life. Maybe he can get Murru Slaughter to write the news and he would use “raging inferno” instead of fire.

  37. Steve L #
    03.10.2010 07:49

    This must be a joke.
    Or just another preposterous example of poor management. Whatever merit exists with regard to the list itself is obscured by the way the message is being presented to staff.
    Here’s a question….if this is so important to him, why doesn’t he just watch the shows and police the situation himself instead of having the employees tell on each other??

  38. tina smith #
    03.10.2010 07:51

    Let’s hope that Randy is also working on a “do not use list” for Greg Jarrett that includes every word that could be pronounced with a Spanish accent! He is so annoying when he breaks into his “I am fluent in spanish” speak!

  39. The Alleged Homer Geneity #
    03.10.2010 08:11

    If WGN reporters were already giving 110 percent, they wouldn’t be putting themselves at risk here, would they? The bad news…they can’t seek other employment…because, fact of the matter is, there are no radio news jobs left in this market. It’s really too bad. They’re plagued by lard-enhanced micromanagers (not a complete surprise). Going forward, you watch. We only have the sketchy details. The whole staff is in harms way. It’s a no brainer. Allegedly and reportedly the place is run by the mother of all doofuses and it’s definitely possible major changes will come in close proximity to publication of this senseless list.

  40. James Edwards #
    03.10.2010 08:15

    Didn’t Johnny Sunshine get in trouble at an LA radio station for using the word “booger?” Shouldn’t that be on the WGN list or is it ok to use it?

  41. db #
    03.10.2010 08:15

    He missed one. Most of these had me chuckling, but the one that REALLY needs to be enforced at every tv/radio in town is the use of the term “all but” — NONE of them use it correctly. Following ‘all but’ should be the one thing that did NOT happen, but instead they follow it w/what did happen. For example, reporters would incorrectly say “the WGN CEO all but sent out a riduculous memo” when in fact it should be “the WGN CEO all but wore a shirt that read ‘kick me, I’m an idiot’” Oh well, enough of my muttering – I’m off to look up the definitions of podium and lectern.

  42. DanCampana #
    03.10.2010 08:16

    After nine years in newspapers, I don’t entirely disagree with some of the suggestions on this list — some of these are Associated Press style, a media bible of sorts. What I do agree with is how ridiculous it is that the CEO is focused on this stuff instead of figuring out how to keep the company alive. If the STMG higher-ups had been doing this during our bankruptcy last year, I probably would have “completely destroyed” something “in the wake of” their stupidity.

  43. emacee1701 #
    03.10.2010 08:17

    Robert, I am surprised that a writer as good as you would take issue with a media executive demanding good use of the mother tongue. Now, if somebody can get broadcasters to stop splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions and using “who” as an object we might be getting someplace.

    I notice Michaels left off my pet peeve: “Span” meaning “bridge.” Who the says “span?”

    The vehemence with which so many of your other readers denounced Michaels and his list shows high school English teachers have not been doing their jobs for at least the past two generations.

    Agree with this action or disagree, Michaels’ lists is generous compared to some of the stylistic dictates Colonel McCormick used to impose on print writers in the same building.

    I will agree this is something the news director should have done, not an executive at Michaels’ level.

  44. Mike G #
    03.10.2010 08:20

    I had a boss like this in advertising. On the one hand, it’s nice to see management show some reflection of the actual craft of the business, and challenging people to abandon their crutch cliches is good. On the other hand, if all it does is remind you of the 58 problems that management isn’t making better, it’s maybe the right answer at the wrong time.

  45. Ummmm #
    03.10.2010 08:25

    I have to say that I agree with most of the list. It adds little to your typical conversation or news report.

    There are two problems:

    1. It shouldn’t be coming from the CEO. Doesn’t he have better things to do?

    2. It’s disturbing that fellow journalists are expected to rat one another out. Like the CEO, they have better things to do.

  46. william caminiti #
    03.10.2010 08:27

    Almost makes me want to tune in again just to hear those poor sob’s try to do their jobs with this jerks sword hanging over their heads…
    I resent that they had to ruin my radio station….stopped listening months ago and will now only listen on cub days.
    Hope the cubs leave for another outlet soon!

    To Dean Richards, Steve Cochran, Steve Bertrand, and John Williams, …you guys have talent and poise….you will find employment elsewhere…
    sorry for your loss..

  47. Ross #
    03.10.2010 08:40

    On one hand, he is micromanaging. On the other, he’s right. Television “journalists” also would do well to drop these words from their “reports.”

  48. Media Mogul #
    03.10.2010 08:41

    He is absolutely right. He even came up with a few I hadn’t thought of. These are purely crutch words.. and his newscasts (and the anchors) will be better off without them.

    Not a big fan of ratting out coworkers.. but it seems more intended to keep everyone in check as opposed to some kind of disciplinary action.

  49. MrJM #
    03.10.2010 08:41

    Newsspeak is out.

    Newspeak is in!

  50. Myeyesarerolling #
    03.10.2010 08:41

    Ma nish ta na ha lilah ha zeh ? (Why is this night different from all other nights?

    By the way, how did he manage to omit the misuse of the word “unique”?

  51. Steve #
    03.10.2010 08:43

    Looks like it’s time to bring back the “Phrase the Pays”

  52. Mr. Palsgraf #
    03.10.2010 08:46

    This isn’t odd or unusual in radio. Program Directors I worked for in the Chicago area and beyond have all been complete buzzkills. And people wonder where the “new talent” is? Radio doesn’t embrace talent, it kills it.

  53. Myeyesarerolling #
    03.10.2010 08:47

    Randy Michaels ?? See all of you were short sighted when you thought that ‘Bozo’ was let go by WGN..

  54. SUSIE #
    03.10.2010 08:51

    They forgot a forbidden phrase on the list..”This is Greg Jarrett”. The reason he has someone else monitoring the radio for infractions is because Randy Michaels won’t listen to his own station. Someone writes, look at his new hires. Don’t have to go that far, look at the new fires. When you let go the high caliber people he’s told to hit the road, that speaks volumes. If I had to follow that list, I’d be let go the first newscast. They’re going to sound like robots. It keeps getting worse.

  55. 03.10.2010 08:52

    WGN has got to come alive – do watch the Noon news everday in my office – In my opinion, great reporters, but who is responsible for their syle of dress?? – Allison Payne is a beautiful woman who consistently wears fabric that I would have on my couch, or a carpet – Robert Jordan has no idea how to look classy, and Julian and Muriel speak in such a monotone, that it is time to snooze – Steve Sanders at least relates, as does Skilling.

    WGN should represent Chicago – not Des Moines. A decent newscast, but if the reporter’s attire doesn’t represent this great city, what’s the point?

  56. Mary Prodler #
    03.10.2010 08:54

    It’s not just that the list is asinine. It’s not just that tattle-telling is perverse. It’s that this numb-nut offers no SOLUTIONS. Any management leader knows that you don’t just present the problem, you offer a SOLUTION. This is nothing but harassment to get the staff to quit, so they can hire people at $11 an hour. I’d like to see someone follow Michaels around for a week, and do some cliche-counting. Perhaps there’s a memo or two that discusses “growing” the business, etc.

  57. Emerson Bigguns #
    03.10.2010 08:54

    Check his record on turning aging-demo AM stations around and argue with the success.

  58. 03.10.2010 08:56

    Yes, some is this basic announcer school stuff, but shouldn’t it be coming from the program Director or news Director instead of top management. I had a station owner who wrote us up for letting the dreaded “Dubba-you” slip out; even though politically, he’d've thought “Dubya” was the name of a great leader. He also insisted on pronouncing “coo-pon” instead out “Q-pon.”

    But in my lexicon, “white stuff” is vital! It’s the mysterious fifth food group of the working broadcaster, right after Sugars, Salts, Greases and Caffeines. White Stuff is ususally found in the filling of Oreos and Twinkies, in marshmallows, and in instant mashed potatoes. Oh, wait… it means “snow?” Never mind.

  59. liveandlocal #
    03.10.2010 08:58

    I guess there isnt much else going on WGN these days. No wonder this station (and others) are in such a state of dis-repair. I’m sure Wally or Uncle Bobby would drive Randy nuts for showing some personality on the air.

  60. Jack Brickhouse's Shorts #
    03.10.2010 08:59

    Perhaps WGN is trying to gain some “traction” in an effort to change their “corporate culture”. Hey, I’ve “been there, done that” and I’m sure Michael’s is simply trying to take a “Pro-active” approach to improving WGN’s “Core Competencies”. “Thinking outside the box” is obviously part of his “Skill Sets” and the reason he is the “top dog”. He may appear to be “Playing hardball”, but he is actually a “Square peg in a round hole”. WGN should be planning his “Exit Strategy”.

    Get with the program and hey, Let’s do lunch

  61. Lynn Patterson #
    03.10.2010 09:01

    Just try listening to Greg Jarrett and not fill in the bingo card! All he does is read stories in the morning because he doesn’t have a clue about Chicago! WGN should start by fixing that!

  62. I.J. Poole #
    03.10.2010 09:01

    The fact of the matter is that some of these entries are completely sensible, and the best-kept secret is that some of the carpers in this comment thread would agree with at least a few of them. To be fair, we’re reeling from the death toll that divas such as Randy Michaels have inflicted upon journalism, and that’s having a bare naked impact on the judgment of all of you world class folks out there.

  63. Tom #
    03.10.2010 09:02

    Know what?
    As a former tv new director, I am in sympathy with the CEO’s directive. Insulting?
    Oh yeah
    But if you heard this kind of hackneyed swill day after day from people who should know something about good writing, but are just plain lazy, you might be driven to desperate measures yourself.
    At least he didn’t fire the news director who evidently lets this kind of lousy, cliched writing foul the airwaves.

  64. Boris #
    03.10.2010 09:13

    @emacee1701: “Robert, I am surprised that a writer as good as you would take issue with a media executive demanding good use of the mother tongue. Now, if somebody can get broadcasters to stop splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions and using ‘who’ as an object we might be getting someplace.”
    I really hope this is brilliant satire.

  65. Mr Levi #
    03.10.2010 09:15

    Yeah, some of it is PC, some overused and misused. But, it’s is STUPID MANAGEMENT

  66. 03.10.2010 09:19

    It’s a style guide. Don’t tell me the New York Times doesn’t have a list of words writers are supposed to avoid and copy-editors are supposed to remove. In fact, a good chunk of these are just simple grammar issues.

    BTW, a person isn’t an “alleged bank robber”, they’re an “accused bank robber”. Facts are alleged, people are accused. You can’t ban the word completely, but it’s used wrongly more often than not. You’re more likely to have an “accused bank robber” than an “alleged bank robbery” and in the latter case, you can have an “apparent bank robbery” or an “unconfirmed bank robbery”.

  67. Mr Levi #
    03.10.2010 09:21

    (Sorry)…that is just trying to justify a salary and position. Radio is known for some of the stupidest ways to communicate. The more mgmt tells air staff what to say and how to say it, the quicker I guess the real question is: Is WGN a better radio station now or before Michaels arrived? I’ve been listening to WGN for 50 years and it is at best, not interesting.

  68. Mr Levi #
    03.10.2010 09:22

    My bad, sticky computer keys this morning. Please delete.

  69. 03.10.2010 09:23

    This really isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s micromanagement. But, with regard to many of those banned phrases, he’s absolutely right. In essence, he’s just reminding anchors to avoid cliches and constipated wording, which is fine. Print reporters get hammered with e-mails like that all the time. Many reporters, in fact, are sticklers for that kind of stuff by themselves. The fact that he’s banning those phrases and words — for the most part; some are dumb — is not the problem. It’s the insane accountability measures on which he insists. That’s a lot of needless work, and it should be up to the station chiefs to keep note of that, not the Tribune administration.

  70. 03.10.2010 09:23

    I don’t like micro-managers but this reads as more of a ’style guide’ for news copy which, as owner, he’s entitled to issue. The bingo cards and informants are another matter. I agree with almost everyone of these. News writing can be incredibly cliched.

  71. Ryan A. #
    03.10.2010 09:32

    I didn’t see “douche bag” on that list…fair game, Randy? I’ll wait for another memo.

  72. Fred #
    03.10.2010 09:42

    –without further ado–
    Add THAT to the list.

  73. 03.10.2010 09:47

    Pedestrian? f*** off

  74. WGN Fan #
    03.10.2010 09:47

    I don’t know wbout this; it doesn’t sound too extreme. Many people have commented above in defense of the elimination of cliches, and I think they’re right.

    The memo seems a little heavy-handed coming from the CEO, but it sounds like Charlie, and the rest of the great personalities in that news room, will find a productive way to address the (legitimate) core concern.

    Come on, a bingo card? Could you imagine Steve Bertrand yelling out “Bingo!” right after Jim Gudas reports sketchy details on a fleeing perpetrator?

    All of us are fans of good news writing. Michaels’ methods should probably be questioned, but I applaud Charlie Meyerson for playing ball against ugly management and a tough economy, and the entire news room for being real professionals.

  75. David Wells #
    03.10.2010 09:50

    I do not understand the objection you are making. News organizations have used style books for many years to ensure that news writers (and news readers)adhere to standard forms of usage that represent either proper grammar, locally accepted conventions or a combination of the two. Such practices were thought to enhance both the gravitas and credibility of news reports.

  76. James Dvorak #
    03.10.2010 09:51

    Hey Randy and Charlie. Did Legal vet this list?
    I always thought it was the lawyers who preferred using “alleged” and “reportedly” to help avoid having to use terms like “slander lawsuit” and “millions of dollars in damages.”
    Silly me.
    I would also think that a news manager with real proficiency in the language would suggest replacements for the words he orders his people not to use. For example, “coaching” and “encouraging” are always better than “demanding” and “threatening” when it comes to improving a subordinate’s skills.
    For that matter, the phrase “encouraging co-workers to comply” or even RFeder’s own, “keep tabs on others compliance” certainly is preferable to the word “snitch” although the latter is far more applicable.
    Speaking of useful terms, I wonder if the editors of this blog will allow me to use the one I think is most appropriate: “corporate masturbation.”

  77. Been there #
    03.10.2010 09:54

    What? A media CEO with a crappy financial outlook who micromanages? That’s never happened!

    While having control over grammar is one thing, having “bingo cards” to rat out your coworkers is awful. What a terrible work environment that promotes.

    Don’t be surprised when your favorite on air personalities leave and start showing up in car ads or as a hospital spokesman.

  78. jarb #
    03.10.2010 09:55

    The list is solid; it’s good journalism. The problem here isn’t in creating the list — that’s a very good step — it’s the way he’s instituting it.

  79. Boris #
    03.10.2010 09:59

    Billy Barnes: “Don�

    Posted via web from Doug's posterous

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