Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Responding to Copspeak

Reporters seem especially susceptible to Copspeak, that creole spoken by the civic heroes who serve and protect. The lingo establishes sense of "insider-ness." It's unfortunate -- and lazy -- when reporters write stories in the shorthand of cops and medics. This morning's story about a truck accident yesterday is a case in point.

"Charlotte County Fire & EMS reponded to the scene, which was near the Kings Highway exit in Port Charlotte."

In our native tongue, people are said to have responded to a question, responded to a pinprick, or responded to a loud noise. But it sounds silly to report they "responded to the scene," as if the scene had emitted a stimulus.

If the writer insists, I suppose I'd let it go if the sentence said the rescuers "responded to a call for help," or some such. But why bother at all? The parallel crime is wasting a sentence to tell readers rescuers arrived at ("responded to") the accident. Of course they got there, whatever verb they rode.

Readers want to know what the medics saw and what they did to help the victims. Since the story ran more than 24 hours after the accident, there was plenty of time for a reporter to call and get quotes or eye-witness details. But no, the story has been presented "according to the accident report." No doubt the accident report was e-mailed to the office so the reporter didn't have to leave the air-conditioned office.

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