Let Them Eat Truth

by on March 2, 2021 · 3 comments

in Election, Media, San Diego

By K-B Gressitt

Having spent half of a Sunday reading the latest news— and everything I couldn’t stomach during the previous week— I find it’s high time for a key revision to the style guides that dictate news reportage.

This is not to disparage the classic or the contemporary. Nope, I keep several of them on my shelf, among them, my old AP Stylebook and Libel Manual, which dominated my newspaper days, Strunk and White’s gem, even Sterling Johnson’s handy analysis of the profane, English as a Second F*cking Language.

Nonetheless, far too much of today’s news reporting is inadequate, and I hold the guides responsible for a small but critical piece of the problem: Formal title standards no longer cut the mustard. It’s time to forsake libel-weary gentility and be honest with readers. We need a new method for presenting the formal titles of news report subjects; we need factual titles that encapsulate the essence of the subject. Think full, but succinct, disclosure.

Now, I’m not about to volunteer for this task. I have neither Sterling’s wit nor Strunk and White’s charming dedication to correctitude in English language usage. (See right there? They’d have excised “correctitude” as grievously un-lucid prose.)

However, I’ll offer up one suggestion with the hope that it inspires a worthy journalistic institution to take on the formal title update.

For example, I find wholly inadequate the common usage of such titles as “former President Donald J. Trump” and “45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump” (the latter being his apparent post-presidency favorite).

While the AP describes formal titles as indicators of authority and accomplishment, Trump’s titles make no mention of his authoritative oratorical tactic and most newsworthy accomplishments. This void does readers a disservice.

With a nod to the standout chutzpah of ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who confronted Trump’s dalliance with truth back in 2020, I propose this standard title for journalists’ use: “Liar and Twice-Impeached Former President Donald J. Trump.” This option articulates both the subject’s core characteristic and his most memorable accomplishments.

Such standardization of a naming protocol— fact-based, transparent and employed throughout the news media— would communicate consistent, simple, and lucid preludes to subjects, swiftly enlightening readers by locating story subjects in their most relevant contexts. Strunk and White would surely have been tickled pink by this.

No longer would readers have to pause at first mention of the Trump name in an article:

“Hmm, Trump, Trump, now who is that? Wasn’t there a Trump cathouse owner way back when? And a racist slumlord, right? Or hey, is it that fabulous Trump who revealed the family’s rancid innards in her book?”

No need for any quandary. This new approach to titles would more than adequately frame the subject, smack dab in the article’s lead and with a minimal word count.

It’s time we publish the truth, albeit short and sweet.

Before I go, though, let me add that “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene” is a title ripe for the proposed protocol. The View’s “Twitter Troll Come to Life Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene,” is a bit too fantastical for journalism.

My own off-the-cuff suggestion, “Transphobe and Troglodytic Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene,” distracts with its alliteration, disregards the subject’s cruelty, and, frankly, I can find no facts to substantiate that she dwells in a cave, despite her behavior, although she is the epitome of deliberate ignorance.

Clearly, more skillful writers than I will do better. Have at it.

P.S. Below is the sign that [Fill in the Blank] Marjorie Taylor Greene posted outside her congressional office, across the hall from that of a member with a transgender child.


Kit-Bacon Gressitt is the publisher and a founding editor of Writers Resist. She lectures in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cal State University San Marcos, and shares her writing at kbgressitt.com.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page March 2, 2021 at 10:15 am

Excellent suggestion. I’d also like to see something done with fonts and capitalization as well, such as, “Liar and Twice-Impeached Former president(in font size 5) Donald J. Trump.”


K-B Gressitt March 2, 2021 at 10:54 am

Tee and hee, Geoff!


Frank Gormlie March 2, 2021 at 11:10 am

The OB Rag will also refuse to publish any more photos of DJT, although photos of him as a golden lamb will suffice.


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