My local TV news team never lets me down when it comes to egregious misuse of the English language.
This week they reported on a man who killed his two-month-old son by crushing his ribs and slamming his head against the side of his crib. You’ll never guess what the reporter called this monstrous sicko in the introduction to the story. She referred to him as “Frustrated Dad.”
Surely a more neutral noun than “dad” would have been preferable in this context–“parent,” for example. (For that matter, “frustrated” seems mild for the circumstances, but that’s another post.)
Newswriters would do well to weigh their choice of words against the context of the story being reported on. “Moms, dads, and kids” might be acceptable in reporting on Little League or a school picnic, but such folksy terms don’t belong in stories about child abuse, poverty, or juvenile delinquency.
The title of this post comes from a news story about a man who robbed a bank branch and escaped on foot. I can’t remember if it was the reporter or the policeman being interviewed, but one of them said “the gentleman fled on foot.”
This bizarre use of the word “gentleman” to refer to a bank robber is similar to the tendency of writers to apply the honorific “Mr.” to felons. Unless your publication has a specific policy, don’t imply respect for the criminal by calling him “Mr.”