Monday, March 15, 2004

“Hastily called press conference.”

Let’s never use this phrase again, OK? It shows up time and time again, imparting a false sense of urgency. The murky haze of cliché has settled over “hastily called press conference” and seems unlikely to lift soon.

Do writers routinely use the phrase “deliberately set-up press conference”? Do they routinely draw our attention to careful planning of a question-and-answer session with journalists?

Of course not.

Writers use “hastily called press conference” to add zest when they’re flagging. The cliché stands in for meaningful context of description of what’s going on. It hits readers over the head with a mallet, yelping, “I’m important, dammit!”

We don’t need the phrase, though. We need the context.

Think about it. If a building bursts into flames at 10 a.m., and the fire chief hold a news conference at 11 a.m., do we have to tell readers that the gathering was “hastily called”? Readers can put it together. I trust them on this.

If a writer absolutely had to draw attention to the thrown-together nature of such an event, I might allow “impromptu.” But I wouldn’t be happy about it.

Finally, another problem with the original phrase is “press conference.” Let’s use “news conference,” unless we’re sure the only reporters there worked for print media.