Randy Michaels’ Words To Avoid List For News

It pains me to side with Randy Michaels and not Robert Feder. I’ve been reading and enjoying Feder for years. On the other hand there’s plenty not to like about Michaels.

A few days ago word came Randy Michaels, CEO of Tribune Company, had sent a memo to WGN-AM, one of the radio stations under his control, containing 119 words and phrases to be avoided on-the-air.

Robert Feder, former Chicago Sun-Times media columnist and now professional blogger, wrote about the list and slammed Michaels.

Sure, you’d think the chief executive officer of a company struggling to emerge from bankruptcy and desperate to salvage an $8 billion buyout-gone-bad would have better things to do than pester his underlings with crazy proclamations. But in the case of Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, you’d be wrong.

It pains me to side with Randy Michaels and not Robert Feder. I’ve been reading and enjoying Feder for years.

On the other hand there’s plenty not to like about Michaels. He was one of the enablers at Clear Channel as they removed live and local from most live and local radio stations. He is bombastic and over the top.

So much for me ever working for Tribune I suppose.

Michaels’ list is right on! Newscasts cover similar type of stories all-the-time: crimes, disasters, corruption. It’s too easy to fall back on jargon.

How many of these words and phrases have you heard twice too often?

* “Flee” meaning “run away”
* “Good” or “bad” news
* “Laud” meaning “praise”
* “Seek” meaning “look for”
* “Some” meaning “about”
* “Two to one margin” . . . “Two to one” is a ratio, not a margin. A margin is measured in points. It’s not a ratio.
* “Yesterday” in a lead sentence
* “Youth” meaning “child”
* 5 a.m. in the morning
* After the break
* After these commercial messages
* Aftermath
* All of you
* Allegations
* Alleged
* Area residents
* As expected
* At risk
* At this point in time
* Authorities
* Auto accident
* Bare naked
* Behind bars
* Behind closed doors
* Behind the podium (you mean lecturn) [sic]
* Best kept secret
* Campaign trail
* Clash with police
* Close proximity
* Complete surprise
* Completely destroyed, completely abolished, completely finished or any other completely redundant use
* Death toll
* Definitely possible
* Diva
* Down in (location)
* Down there
* Dubbaya when you mean double you
* Everybody (when referring to the audience)
* Eye Rack or Eye Ran
* False pretenses
* Famed
* Fatal death
* Fled on foot
* Folks
* Giving 110%
* Going forward
* Gunman, especially lone gunman
* Guys
* Hunnert when you mean hundred
* Icon
* In a surprise move
* In harm’s way
* In other news
* In the wake of (unless it’s a boating story)
* Incarcerated
* Informed sources say . . .
* Killing spree
* Legendary
* Lend a helping hand
* Literally
* Lucky to be alive
* Manhunt
* Marred
* Medical hospital
* Mother of all (anything)
* Motorist
* Mute point. (It’s moot point, but don’t say that either)
* Near miss
* No brainer
* Officials
* Our top story tonight
* Out in (location)
* Out there
* Over in
* Pedestrian
* Perfect storm
* Perished
* Perpetrator
* Plagued
* Really
* Reeling
* Reportedly
* Seek
* Senseless murder
* Shots rang out
* Shower activity
* Sketchy details
* Some (meaning about)
* Some of you
* Sources say . . .
* Speaking out
* Stay tuned
* The fact of the matter
* Those of you
* Thus
* Time for a break
* To be fair
* Torrential rain
* Touch base
* Under fire
* Under siege
* Underwent surgery
* Undisclosed
* Undocumented alien
* Unrest
* Untimely death
* Up in (location)
* Up there
* Utilize (you mean use)
* Vehicle
* We’ll be right back
* Welcome back
* Welcome back everybody
* We’ll be back
* Went terribly wrong
* We’re back
* White stuff
* World class
* You folks

9 thoughts on “Randy Michaels’ Words To Avoid List For News”

  1. Now, if these words and phrases were less used in ordinary conversations, we’d have a great improvement.

    Los Angeles stations drop these trite and overused phrases into EVERY blasted newscast, IMHO.

    I think he put the list out out of total frustration…

  2. Oh, and it’s not just the list — I’m fine with pretty much everything on the list. But Michaels wants co-workers to spy on each other and report infractions on a type of bingo card. In the words of Feder, that’s “just plain creepy.”

  3. Could we extend this idea to the airlines? If I hear one more attendant say, “We’re about to begin the landing process,” instead of “We’re about to land,” I’ll scream. Or would, if I thought the TSA wouldn’t handcuff me.

  4. Great list. My pet peeve — “We’re back after….” instead of “We will be back…” which, of course, is “banned.” But, it’s better than what news anchors usually say. And, anchors are for boats (or ships). It’s one of those words that came about after “anchorman” was deemed exclusive to women and “anchorperson” didn’t catch on. So, anchors away! Wait, another pet peeve. Teasing an upcoming news story: “You won’t believe …” I know it’s conversational, but why are you telling me that I’m not going to believe what you are about to report? Are you not a credible news organization? If I’m not going to believe it, then I’m not going to “stay tuned.”

  5. Geoff –

    Not only is it a solid list (with the exception of “alleged,” which obviously must be used in certain circumstances), but Feder’s big complaint is bizarre:

    It’s BAD for a CEO actually to understand the company’s product and to care about it enough to want to improve it?

  6. Another really bad one is “died of cardiac arrest” — that’s saying someone died because their heart stopped. That’s how everyone dies.

  7. Welcome back, everybody.

    Our exclusive top developing breaking news story right now at 5 a.m. this morning, ahead of the aftermath of shower activity and forecasted torrential rains from a perfect storm that are definitely possible on the campaign trail, where, going forward, as expected, the challenger leads the marred incumbent by a two-to-one margin: A manhunt is underway out there.

    Details are sketchy at this point in time, but some really bad news yesterday for at risk area residents in harm’s way, who, are thus speaking out from both behind closed doors and behind the podium, as officials and informed sources out there say authorities reportedly are seeking a legendary bare naked perpetrator once incarcerated behind bars as a youth, a lone gunman, who allegedly clashed with police, then fled on foot or utilized a vehicle under false pretenses after shots rang out in close proximity to a completely finished medical hospital, a near miss and complete surprise for a passing motorist who narrowly avoided a car versus utility pole auto accident and a lucky pedestrian, a famed and lauded Diva who almost underwent undisclosed surgery by doctors and is understandably lucky to be alive at this early hour after actually avoiding an untimely death by cardiac arrest, but a near killing spree whose death toll resulted in the fatal death and senseless murder of an icon, who, in a surprise move, was giving nearly 110% to lend a helping hand to a world class local charity we told you about here first in The News at Noon that literally benefits more than a hunnert of you folks, including undocumented aliens, plagued by addiction, hooked on the white stuff in the wake of, to be fair, serving under fire and under siege, in harm’s way over there in Iraq (Eye-Rack) and Iran (Eye-Ran) in the no brainer Mother of All Battles against freedom-hating terrorists, in the wake of 9/11, when thousands perished. But, that’s a moot point.

    Time for a break. Still ahead: We’ll touch base with a story of the best kept secret you won’t believe. Fact of the matter is, we’ll be right back, after we pay the bills with these commercial messages on your leading live, late breaking local source for action news and super regional Doppler radar weather alerts, school delays and closings, Dubbaya W-T-F.

  8. Please understand, Geoff, my issue was never about the content of the list. It was about the lunacy of the CEO of one of the largest media companies in America (one that’s in bankruptcy, I might add) micromanaging and bullying his employees. Believe me, 90 percent of the words and phrases on that list have never been uttered by any of the news anchors and reporters at WGN Radio. It’s an insult to their professionalism and intelligence to suggest that they have.

    I do appreciate your kind words about my work. Thank you.

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