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April 7, 2003


I've been driven crazy lately

I've been driven crazy lately by embedded reporters who seem to have "gone native" and get on TV or the radio and use plural personal pronouns as they describe the action they've seen: "We fought our way across the river", "We fought back pretty hard and made our way through", etc. (Mike Cerre of ABC is a big practitioner of this breathless first-person narrative.)

Here's an extended example from one reporter:

So we've pulled back for that, and as I say, when we were pulling back, we could see the area we had fought through two and a half days ago -- it was called Machine Gun Alley -- and when we pulled back there were lots of dead Iraqis...
This kind of language indicates an intentional blurring of the lines between the reporter and his subject, but it's also inaccurate. Presumably, no reporter (yet) has put down his pen and picked up a gun and "fought" his way through anything, so it seems wrong to dramatically and grammatically include oneself as a combatant. I understand that given the stressful environment, the embeds are likely to identify with their units and subjects, but I feel it's important, when reporting, to keep the line distinct.

Having said that, there are opportunities to write about how much you identify with the troops, as in this column (not a news story) in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It's a writer's account of how two soldiers, through chance, saved his life and took bullets and shrapnel for him. The story gets more exciting as it goes on.

NPR's On the Media had a brief segment on the topic of "we" a couple weeks ago.

posted by adm at 12:46 PM | #


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