Using the language of our sources

We’ve been talking a lot in our lectures about language. It is easy and safe to borrow the language of our sources. But the job of a journalist is to parse what we’re told be our sources — especially PR people and PIOs — to get at some approximation of the “truth.”
I was concerned and excited this morning to catch professional journalists making the mistake of taking language right from the source. Concerned, because it showed laziness on the part of the professional journalists; Excited, because noticing it is kind of a sign it’s becoming easy for me to recognize this sort of thing.
The news from Gaza this morning was that the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that was supposed to last 72 hours didn’t make it much longer than a few hours. According to NPR News, the Israelis called it off after Hamas kidnapped one of their soldiers. Renee Montagne, the host of Morning Edition, kept repeat this phrase with the verb “kidnapped.” Even when she’d speak with journalists on the ground who would use the more appropriate verb “captured,” she kept saying “kidnapped.”
The connotation around the word ‘kidnap’ is that the abducted person is an innocent who probably didn’t have any connection to the people who took him or her. Soldiers in an active battle don’t get kidnapped.
Captured is more fitting because the abduction, according various sources, happened before the cease fire began, and it’s likely the soldier was involved in some form of fighting.
I’m not trying to justify capturing anyone, but it is important to call it what it is. The Israeli military surely has a calculated reason for using the word kidnapped when talking to the press about the incident. Journalists should know better than to be complicit in the distortion of information.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s