The Stepford Reporters

"Sometimes one wonders if campaign reporters could write a declarative English sentence if they were stripped of their cliches," complains the Columbia Journalism Review's Susan Q. Stranahan. She cites numerous examples of reporters declaring that presidential candidates' wives are (or are not) "Stepford wives"; the pervasive use of "horse race" as a metaphor for elections; and stereotyping of voters as "angry white males," "Joe Six-Pack," "NASCAR dads" and "soccer moms." Echoing George Orwell's lament in "Politics and the English Language," Stranahan points out that "What's sacrificed is accuracy and fairness to readers. Cliches blur distinctions and homogenize issues, eventually assuming a meaning of their own long after their original context has been forgotten."