Monday, February 15, 2010

The corpse that won't stay dead

Wasn't there a Spanish king who had a lisp so bad people started speaking that way so the problem would seem normal? A real emperor had no clothes story. Are we seeing this happen with President Obama, who mispronounced Navy corpsman as "corpseman" during a prayer breakfast speech? Never head about it? Not surprised. There's little, if any, mention of it in the traditional news media. It's all over the net, however. I think it would have been ammo for late night comics, given the pounding Bush took for similar slips. (See earlier postings about the Quayle-Clinton era as well as Obama and "57 states."). Does all this matter? I think so if one regards these incidents as lessons in media power. Will "corpseman" become the correct pronunciation? Living memory tells us there was a time when "gay" meant only happy. And how did "gone missing" become so accepted when just a few years ago it meant you were AWOL? News stories about missing persons used to say simply that they "are missing." These earlier examples, however, pretty much came when the mainstream media could regard net comments as nothing more than puddles. Not so now.
The imbalance results from "liberal bias," right? I'm not so sure. I think there's a good chance reporters covering the speech didn't know the difference between corpsman and corpseman. I'd bet they didn't know what a corpsman is. When I entered the news game almost every one I worked with had been in the military. When I left hardly anyone had. I saw many stories shortly before I retired that used "battleship" to describe a destroyer or refer to a corporal as an "officer." The late lamented media mag Brill's Content had a piece about military reporting that said social concerns in military coverage far outweighed that of preparedness.
Things might be a bit better now because the Internet will eventually catch you. If only the news powers regarded blogs as a means to improve reporting. Start now by owning up to the "corpseman" goof.

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