Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alleged News Story Potentially Reports on Suspected Shooting, Allegedly.

The Associated Press demonstrates how heavily lawyers have drilled into journalists that they have to hedge the way they describe anything that happens, to the point of ridiculousness.

The tragic story of a shooter going into a church and firing upon congregants in Knoxville, Tenn., was reported by AP on the Philadelphia Inquirer website this way:

A suspected gunman has opened fire during a church service in Knoxville, Tenn., and several people are injured. [Emphasis added]

This was the lead of the article. The fact that there was a gunman is pretty evident from the fact that several people were critically injured. Why do we have to refer to him as a "suspected" gunman. It was a real gunman.

The word suspected, or alleged, or purported, or police claim, is only really necessary to describe the actual suspect when he/she is identified. But it's just plain silly and careless writing and copy editing to open the story with "A suspected gunman..."

Just say what happened. It's that simple.