Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Clichés in journo-land

"It's every parent's worst nightmare."

Whenever a conversation turns to clichés in journalism, I immediately think of the fine example above. I mean, what is every parent's worst nightmare? Kidnapping? Death by serial killer? Incurable illness? Colicky baby? Junior fails to make it into daddy's alma mater? A 20-something who refuses to move out of his parents' basement?

According to The Independent, for one dad, it was his daughter becoming a "national hate figure" and "notorious lesbian" by appearing on Big Brother - eek! A google search for headline + "Every parent's worst nightmare" unearthed 21,300 hits.

I was first tuned in to the idiocy of this particular cliché by Don Gibb, a journalism prof at Ryerson (now a professor emeritus - he retired in 2008). He was a guest-lecturer in my first-year print class. His affable manner made his discussion a particular fun one and it's stuck with me since 1995-ish.

I thought of Don after reading this story in the Australian, "At the end of the day, they are journalism's worst clichés."

Why avoid clichés? Generally speaking, using a cliché is lazy. Clichés are often untrue stereotypes.

Then again, when they're used, they give us word nerds endless amusement.