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Tribune’s Banned Words

March 19, 2010

The Tribune Company, over there in Chicago, has received quite a bit of press in the wake of a meeting last Friday in which legendary CEO Randy Michaels tried to find out who leaked his memo about words and phrases that should not be used on the air. http://blogs.vocalo.org/feder/2010/03/behind-closed-doors-angry-tribune-ceo-confronts-staff/17766. I’m having a hard time understanding the perfect storm created in the aftermath of the meeting about the list (http://tiny.cc/rTOAT ). The list of some 120 words and phrases is designed to lend a helping hand to staff so it can avoid cliches. To good writers the list is a no-brainer. Words like “flee” when you mean “run away”, “seek” when you could use “look for” and, one of my pet peeve redundancies, “5 a.m. in the morning.

I don’t have a problem with the list. But I wonder why the icon Michaels, in a surprise move, felt he had to meet with his folks at WGN Radio, some of whom are at work at 5 a.m. in the morning, behind closed doors to seek an answer as to why the memo was leaked. Sources say Michaels was reportedly angry and the staff felt it was under siege. Since the CEO works upstairs from WGN, maybe the meeting was an attempt by Micheals to touch base with staffers and let them know that, when they utilize shoddy writing it creates unrest up there in his office. This list shouldn’t be Tribune’s best kept secret. The fact of the matter is those of you who have access to the list should share it with everybody. Informed sources say doing so could really end the pedestrian writing that plagues our industry. Now, to be fair, it’s been fun speaking out on how the meeting marred the newsroom harmony and left the staff reeling but now it’s time for a break. Stay Tuned!

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