Broken but not silent.

Friday, January 17th, 2020

As the amount of impeachment-related news surges out of Washington, I’m feeling the need to grab my official J-school Dropout Blue Pencil™ and begin slicing through cliché-ridden tweets, copy, posts, the stuff of reporting on-air and on the printed page.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, saying he believed the allegations would prove to be wrong but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.

Yes, it’s the Associated-freaking-Press with this “broke his silence” crap. Matthew Lee, the AP’s State Department reporter.

Mr. Lee, Pompeo simply “spoke.” He emitted a statement sufficiently on the record to be reported, and that’s really all that needs to be done. Report it. Report when he has no comment. Report when he does. Your job is not to hold a stopwatch, tapping your foot, putting your personal expectations out there amidst the political hoo-hah.

Until he spoke, the State Department had declined repeated requests to offer any public defense of Yovanovitch, drawing fire from many.

This isn’t a firefight. It’s not a competition, a battle, or a prizefight. Characterizing this stuff as trading blows, or lashing out, or taking fire, or lobbing “bombshells” does nothing to further the cause of the free flow of information, and does everything to dilute the streams of reporting with so many clichés that they flow by uncomprehended. I’m quite sure this practice has the “crying wolf” effect that makes us just that much more numb every time you casually toss one of these not-so-bon mots into a piece.

And he drew fire “from many”, eh? That’s as bad as the President’s contrived use of this anonymous “many” in his tweets.

Yes, I most definitely think that the White House, the State Department, and all the various parts of the extremely disturbing Trump administration should be speaking daily, hourly, on the record, backed by documents. And if that doesn’t happen, that fact should be reported. But the moment that a statement is made, be it by a Washington politician, a British royal, or a Hollywood celeb, that is not “breaking his/her/their silence.”

That is “talking.” That is “saying something.”

I don’t think it’s the press’s job to referee Washington. It’s the press’s job to report on Washington (and elsewhere on the planet.) As I’ve said other times, I admire those who do it well. It’s often not at all fun. I’m sure it’s tedious. But no matter how long you do it, unless you’ve been specifically assigned to write an opinion piece consisting of your very own opinions, just leave your opinions out of your work.

You could always pour them into a blog post, I suppose.