When I joined The Associated Press in the Woodstein Era, I had to memorize the organization’s stylebook. I studied it so intently that I found several errors, which my test giver acknowledged.
I’m so anal about accuracy that I just checked to make sure that The Associated Press does indeed have “The” in its name. Many websites obscure the full name of their companies, but a little trick is to go to the company’s privacy page, where the lawyers write the words.
As has just about every other legacy media outfit, The AP has crossed over to the dark side. I suppose you have seen that its stylebook now stipulates that “black” will be capitalized but not “white.” Glad I’m not memorizing it now to get hired.
The story is told that a lgendary AP writer in my time, Sid Moody, saved his career in his early days in the New Jersey bureau with a clever expedient every journalist of that day understood. He wrote:
“A nuclear missile was launched tonight in New Jersey, state police said.”
Was a missile launched? No. Did the state police say it was? Yes. So Moody’s sentence was correct, and he went on to an illustrious career.
I was reminded of that story when I came across this essay by Jim Goad, who was trained as I was. i want you to read it so that you can understand the garbage thrown in your face every day. He describes his journalism teacher’s instruction.
And not only don’t you share opinions, the only way to keep yourself from looking like an idiot is to never state anything as a fact, either. Nothing. You attribute all statements of either facts or opinions to others. You never make any claims. You always attribute claims to others. That way you’re never wrong.
You are perfectly free to QUOTE someone saying the most ridiculously emotional, subjective, unquantifiable, and unfalsifiable thing. Go ahead and let someone say that there is racial injustice in the USA. Hang that stupid sentiment on them.
The reason she taught us to do it this way is because journalism, at least as she saw it, was an attempt to get at the truth no matter how unpleasant the truth might be. The LAST thing journalism was supposed to do was push an ideology, because at that point it ceased to be journalism.
He continues with a scornful look at The AP today. It was once a highly respected news organization.
Please read his entire essay.