Presumptuous reporting in political journalism

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SOMETIMES newspaper people and photographers forget that they should be doing journalistic reporting instead of acts of clairvoyance.

This thought came to mind when a few days after the 2016 local and national elections, a leading national newspaper’s online edition came out with a worm’s-eye photo of a candidate for Philippine president, decked with a floral garland, gesticulating to an unseen audience against a backdrop of blue skies and cirrus clouds.

The stand-alone photo feature had this caption: “During his campaign sortie in Tabaco City, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte seems to leave his fate to the heavens. The presumptive President has since taken matters into his hands and made himself scarce to media after his landslide win.”

The caption writer or the photographer evidently got totally carried away by the photo’s atmospherics. The caption made the gratuitous presumption that Mayor Duterte “seems to leave his fate to the heavens.” And I daresay that there was absolutely no logic nor correlation between that presumption and the succeeding observation that “he has since taken matters into his hands and made himself scarce to media after his landslide win.”
In short, with that photo and language misuse, that newspapaper was indulging not in honest-to-goodness journalism but in unwarranted blue-sky thinking.


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Talking about objectivity, here’s a question posted by ‎Marianne Freya Gutib‎ recently on the Facebook page of Jose Carillo’s English Forum: “What’s the difference in meaning between ‘select’ (adjective) and ‘choice’ (adjective). When do we use each word?”

My reply to Marianne:
The adjectives “choice” and “select” are generally synonymous in the sense of having been preferred from a number or group in terms of a particular attribute. The difference is in the degree and manner of selection. A choice candidate in a lackluster election lineup may be the best of the lot but not entirely desirable, but a select group of candidates is more judiciously winnowed to include only those with truly outstanding qualities and no known major undesirable attributes.

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Here’s another question, this time about sports news reporting, posted in the Forum recently by a new member who goes by the username Rix:
“Sir, I always watch sports action on TV and very often, I would hear sports commentators say, ‘The score is tied at 8 all; the score is again a deadlock at 89 apiece.’ Shouldn’t it be, ‘The score is tied at 8,’ or ‘The score is again a deadlock at 89?’This is because “all” and “apiece’ are obviously redundant.”

My reply to Rix:
Anything goes in the language of sports, redundancies and all. Grammatical correctness isn’t really the strongest suit of sportscasters; creating excitement and getting excited themselves is the name of the game. How dry sportscasting would be if sportscasters attempted to be exemplars of English grammar and usage all the time during a breakneck sporting event!

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Lastly, here’s a grammar question posted in the Forum by new member Youssef:
“Which is correct, ‘Other equipment will be purchased after the second quarter,” or “Other equipments will be purchased after the second quarter.’?”

My reply to Youssef:
The word “equipment” is a mass, noncount noun that in normal usage can be both singular or plural depending on whether it refers to a single unit or to several units of that equipment. In its plural form, it doesn’t need the suffix “-s” but stays as is—“equipment.”

Also, a noun preceded by the adjective “other” must be in its plural form, as in “Other girls are joining the picnic.” In the case of “equipment,” of course, it’s already plural even without “-s” as suffix.

So, assuming you mean to say that several units of that “equipment” will be purchased, the correct phrasing of the statement you presented would be the following: “Other equipment will be purchased after the second quarter.”

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, http://josecarilloforum.com. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo. E-mail: j8carillo@yahoo.com

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4 Comments

  1. I don’t think everyone is addressing Mayor Duterte as “presumptive President,” which I find denigrating, inappropriate, and wrong both politically and semantically. To all people of goodwill he’s now “President-elect,” pure and simple. It looks like the “presumptive” label is being tacked on him only by sectors of the media who don’t like him–a way of expressing displeasure at a victorious anti-establishment figure.

  2. Pete Rodill on

    Here’s another question:

    Why is everyone addressing Rodrigo Duterte as “presumptive President”? Presumptive comes from the word presume or presumption. The meaning of the word is “to undertake without right or permission”. If Rodrigo Duterte is the “presumptive” president, then he is undertaking or about to undertake the Presidency of the Philippines without right or permission. But such is not the case. He is duly elected by the clear majority of the electorate!

    The correct address for Rodrigo Duterte is “President-elect” until such time as he assumes officially the office of the President. At that time he is President Rodrigo Duterte.

    Just saying.

    • Amnata Pundit on

      Gaya-gaya kay Donald Trump na presumptive nominee. Pavlovian reaction ng mga westernized Pinoys yan to anything American.

    • “Presumptive president” because he was not yet officially proclaimed by Congress as the canvassing authority for the level of president and vice president. After being declared or proclaimed winner by Congress up to the time he assumes office on June 30, he becomes “President-elect” until noon of that day when he can be called “President.”