Pity the poor editor seeking to avoid cliches. It is a futile attempt that, for better or worse, only shines a spotlight on what has become the new normal.
Be that as it may, it is fun. Over the past couple of years, I have joined with colleagues throughout The Washington Post, especially the inimitable Anne Kornblut, to collect cliched words and phrases that journalists rely on too much — indeed, at their peril. It was a little-noticed collection that has suddenly become oft-cited, perhaps even going viral.
After Jim Romenesko posted the list on his blog, I expected pushback from the powers that be, who might want to double down on their use of such terms. Instead, we received support from a dizzying array of sources, in particular through a feeding frenzy of retweets and e-mails. Clearly, this hot-button issue struck a nerve.
We learned that picking winners was a favorite Washington parlor game. Indeed, the list became a Rorschach test, if you will, for how you perceive journalism in the 21st century, particularly with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle. Friends told me the list was being passed around in other newsrooms, making me feel like a most unlikely revolutionary. It was a paradigm shift — at least for now.
To be sure, the list was incomplete. But rather than shutter it, we’ve added many more #bannedphrases sent from throughout the Fourth Estate, official Washington and beyond. Herewith, a dozen examples: