Public Editor

August 26, 2013

Jarring jargon?

When writing about niche topics, should journalists use lingo familiar to the worlds they’re writing about? Pointing to a story about a developer’s plan to build a new hotel in the Crossroads, an emailer noticed development reporter Kevin Collison refers to “two flags” in the project: a Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn.

An emailer brought up a question worth pondering today.

Pointing to a story about a developer’s plan to build a new hotel in the Crossroads, he noticed development reporter Kevin Collison refers to “two flags” in the project: a Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn.

“I learned long ago that hotels use the term ‘flag,’” wrote my emailer. “but should the paper be using business jargon like that? I guess it is a business article”

I like this question, because it’s one that shows how journalists have to straddle two worlds sometimes. For someone who covers a niche beat intensively, it’s a requirement of the job to become familiar with the lingo used by the people on that beat.

But at the same time, the readership of a source such as The Kansas City Star is a general audience. Nobody can expect everyone to understand technical terms or shop talk used by insiders.

In this case, I don’t find it too much of a stretch. I wasn’t familiar with that particular term, but I also went right past it the first time I read the story. I understood what it meant, perhaps implicitly. But your mileage may vary.

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