I’m breaking my silence about speaking out

I’m breaking my silence and speaking out: It’s time for headline writers to rein in the use of those phrases. We can do better.

In these examples from The Huffington Post, why not say what Obama said about waterboarding? A more compelling headline would be “Obama calls waterboarding torture.” And it’s better for SEO.

And what obligation does Gloria Cain have to discuss the allegations of sexual harassment against her husband? None. The “breaks silence” headline indicates that she does and is feeling pressure to do so.

Google News shows us that headlines are filled with these phrases. Wendi Murdoch, for example, is breaking her silence over a pie-throwing incident earlier this year. And Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson’s death, is speaking out. And so on.

Sometimes the phrases are being used interchangeably. Depending on the news source, Sharon Bialek either “broke her silence” or “spoke out” when she alleged that Herman Cain acted inappropriately when she asked him for help getting a job.

I’m not advocating a ban on these phrases. But I would suggest using them with caution. They have become shopworn and often obscure the news rather than illuminating it.



  1. In a way, this is a reflection on the Romenesko fiasco. To wit, should aggregators be held to the same journalistic standards as newspapers? I’m not sure the Huffington Post really qualifies as a journalism enterprise. It’s more of a blackboard for bloviation and a locale for link-a-palooza activity.

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