Assistant business editor Steve Rassenfoss of the Houston Chronicle has been dealing with comments from readers about how the language used in stories about the oil and engineering industry isn’t technically correct. In reader representative James Campbell’s Sunday column, it boils down to keeping it simple, stupid vs. my eyes glaze over.
Rassenfoss tried to explain this issue to one reader by writing in an e-mail: “I’ll admit that the news business often gets it wrong on the oil business. But there’s another problem you need to consider: This paper is a business with a relatively simple mission â€” we sell our stories to a mass market to create a publication and, increasingly, a Web site, which can profitably sell ads. We’re essentially selling eyeballs. The readers we’re trying to reach are from all walks of life. We are trying to put it in a language that relies on the commonly used, standard vocabulary. … In writing seminars and readership surveys we’re told readers hate business jargon and want us to explain more. So, our ability to teach them the specific language used by specialists within a field is very limited.”
Added Campbell: “The e-mailer makes a reasonable case, but that doesn’t alleviate our challenge as a newspaper to find a medium between industry jargon and newspaper language that will prevent our readers from getting a bad case of ‘MEGO’. That doesn’t mean suspending accuracy. It does mean reporting in a universal vocabulary readers can understand.”
Read more here.