by Deborah Potter
Deborah Potter of Newslab writes:
It probably won’t be easy, but bless John Reiss for trying. Reiss, the senior broadcast producer at NBC Nightly News, has launched a campaign to get verbs back on the air at his network.
Under previous managers, NBC’s flagship newscast had become a virtual grammar-free zone. (See I'd Like to Buy a Verb.) Apparently the old regime thought it made the news sound more active and immediate to leave out every “is” and “are.” The results were stilted at best, as in this Kerry Sanders script: “Oranges, long the symbol of the Sunshine State, now endangered. Crews, under state government orders, destroying hundreds of backyard citrus trees.”
Picking up on what had become the NBC way of writing, Reiss sent a memo to the staff after moving from Dateline to Nightly. “Wondering whatever happened to the verb ‘to be,’” he wrote. “Being told this was once NBC’s preferred style. Still, believing we should make some changes.”
Reiss asked the network’s correspondents to start using “to be” again and to stop all that “ing-ing,” so they’ll sound on the air the way they do in person. “I never talk like that,” he says, calling it unnecessary shorthand. “I don’t know what you gain by it. It makes the language uglier.”
In his memo, Reiss suggested the style developed as a way to shorten scripts. “Understanding this “ing-glish” is often a time-saver and that there are appropriate moments for it,” he wrote, “but hoping we’ll be seeing less of it in the future.”
Some reporters are resisting the change, Reiss says, mainly out of habit. But many have come up to thank him, he says. One new hire, who recently asked Reiss how he felt about verbs, was relieved by his answer. “I’m in favor of them,” Reiss said. “I’m pro-verbs.”
Now if he could just do something about Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith.
This article was published in its entirety on the ConcernedJournalists.org site with permission from the Newlab.