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May 10, 2004 6:49 AM   Subscribe

When did the practice of TV news types speaking in—hmm, I guess they're headlines in a way—start? Lots of present participles, very few verbs. Was some kind of research done that showed people prefer to have someone tell them the news that way?
posted by emelenjr to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
I seem to recall an NYT article [abstract] about Fox News and anchor Shepard Smith where they said he tries to use as few words as possible, in order to jam more stories into the time allowed. He ends up striking out virtually all the verbs. As for research -- well, I suppose they looked at the ratings and figured they were doing something right.

It reminded me of a famous 1936 New Yorker profile of Henry Luce, written by Wolcott Gibbs. Early in its life, Time magazine adopted a vivid writing style, which they called Timespeak, that produced very odd sentences (they dropped this style many years ago). In Gibbs' profile of Luce, he parodied it with a breathless description of the magazine's origins, most famously "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind" and ultimately ending with: "... Certainly to be taken with seriousness is Luce at thirty-eight, his fellowman already informed up to his ears, his future plans impossible to contemplate. Where it all will end, knows God!" (More details)
posted by pmurray63 at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2004

Not too sure about the origins of the way of speaking, but there was a great comedy series called The Day Today which aired about 10 years ago in the UK. It parodied TV news to a tee, and was bloody hilarious. You can all 6 episodes on DVD now, well worth a look.


"Bouncing elephantiasis woman destroys central Portsmouth!
posted by derbs at 9:52 AM on May 10, 2004

Thanks for both responses.

pmurray63, yours could've even been worked into an FPP, I bet. Neat.

"Gerald Ford shot senselessly dead, at the age of 83."
posted by emelenjr at 12:43 PM on May 10, 2004

NYT article [abstract]

Going in from a search on Google brings up the whole article - gotta login though (bugmenot).
posted by ao4047 at 2:55 PM on May 10, 2004

Michael Kinsley wrote about this phenomenon a few years back. I seem to recall a subsequent analysis attributing the style to the need to convey a sense of immediacy and urgency to news stories.
posted by jjg at 4:39 PM on May 10, 2004

Ah, here's one such analysis. And Geoffrey Nunberg apparently wrote on the topic for the New York Times once, but now you have to pay to read it.
posted by jjg at 4:45 PM on May 10, 2004

I quoted a substantial chunk of Nunberg's piece in my LH entry on the topic, and there are some interesting comments as well.
posted by languagehat at 7:03 PM on May 10, 2004

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