Thursday, April 29, 2004

PROGRAM NOTE: My wife and I were watching the 11 p.m. news two nights ago, on a station whose news program we don't normally watch (the local ABC News affiliate).

The commercial teaser said something about a "lost helicopter" being the top story. At 11 the reader led off by saying, "The Army Black Hawk helicopter from Fort Bragg that had been lost today, has just been found."

Lost? Found? What did the Army do, misplace this helicopter? Well, no, it had been on maneuvers, and where they found it was submerged in the Little Pee Dee River. The common word for this sort of event is "crash," but the anchors completely avoided that word. The helicopter had been missing, but now was found. If not for the news reader's grim tone of voice, you'd have thought it was good news for the Army.

Three Army personnel were aboard. Normally, one would say that what happened to them is they were "killed." But again, the program used very roundabout language: "Fort Bragg officials had hoped for the best, but the worst outcome was confirmed."

A. and I remarked on this weird, confusing, passive way of telling the story. Lousy writing, we said. Then a couple minutes later, they reported a story from Iraq about an American soldier being "murdered." He was on patrol, was ambushed, and Iraqi insurgents "murdered" him.

No, I'm sorry, this soldier was not "murdered." He was killed in combat. The biggest bleeding-heart international lawyer in the Hague could not dress it up as a murder.

Our local media market includes Fort Bragg, as well as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune Marine Base. So all our news shows bend over backwards to "support the troops." But it doesn't support anybody not to state facts clearly. I won't be tuning to this news show again, at least not without a copy of George Orwell's collected essays nearby.

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