Saturday, November 1, 2003

I Do Not Agree

Pet peeve: Reporters writing that people agree with other people just to make a transition. Happens all the time.

"Dr. Lawrence agreed with Professor Plum that black is white."

In the cases I'm griping about, Dr. Lawrence lives across the country from Professor Plum, and the two don't know each other from Adam. Yet they're both sources that made the same point in an interview.

Thus, magically, they agree!

In most cases, this smacks of dishonesty. I doubt the reporter read Professor Plum's comments to Dr. Lawrence and said "So, do you agree with that?" More likely, the reporter asked the same question to each person and got similar answers.

In stories about contentious issues, this pops up often. Reporters like to group people, one side against the other. All the agreeing makes it easy for rushed writers to distinguish liberals from conservatives and so on.

I think we can trust the reader here. Honest. Let people say what they say. Don't force them to agree with people they have never met.

If the story absolutely requires a transition, use something like this:

"Dr. Lawrence made a similar point."