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.


  1. Love this! As it happens, the cliché you used as your illustration is the one I dislike the most. How the hell does some journalist know what my worst parenting nightmare might be?

  2. Oh that is so funny! Greig uses "at the end of the day" in every other sentence he speaks. It drives me bat-shit and just want to back hand him to break him of the habit.

  3. Is it just me, or are American news outlets so much worse for cliches? CNN in particular...

  4. I use "at the end of the day" way, WAY to much when speaking in real life. I think I've managed to avoid it in writing though. Oof.