Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Our letters editor takes to task this week's Independent coverage

Share

On Wednesday, readers were informed by a report from the Middle East that “the Israeli army spokesman announced last night that the army had succeeded in foiling an attempted attack on a military base in southern Israel by several gunmen armed with grenades”.

What is the difference between succeeding in foiling an attempted attack and just plain foiling an attack? Nothing, except that the sense of drama is artificially heightened by the implied risk that they might not have succeeded. Cut out the verbiage.

And here’s another thing. What are “gunmen armed with grenades”? I always thought gunmen were armed with guns. Of course what we have here is an attempt to solve the perennial dilemma summed up by the saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Terrorists are baddies: freedom fighters are goodies. Guerrillas are sort of goodish, and the baddish ones are gunmen. They are all, of course, the same people. The best shot anyone has had at a non-tendentious term for them is “militants”, but it sounds po-faced.

There will probably never be a right answer, but don’t ridicule the less than perfect attempts, because it really is important for reporters to be able to tell a story without taking sides.

Last Saturday we ran a story about the murder of a teacher in France: “The killer is believed to be a mother of one of the teacher’s pupils.” That sentence could work in either of two ways: “The killer is believed to be a mother whose child is one of the teacher’s pupils”, or “The killer is believed to be the mother of one of the teacher’s pupils”. As it stands, it implies that the pupil in question has several mothers, one of whom is the killer.

An item of art news in last Saturday’s Radar informed us: “Mark Wallinger’s Ghost (2001) is a homage to George Stubbs’s Whistleblower (1762).” I am grateful to Tom Scott for pointing out this daft homage to the likes of Julian Assange. The thoroughbred stallion depicted in Stubbs’s monumental canvas is, of course, called Whistlejacket.

A theatre review published on Thursday began like this: “It is fascinating to think what we would make of Beryl Burton had she been racing today, the benefactor of sponsorship deals, personal appearances, endless TV interviews and relentless media exposure.” No, the cyclist would have been the beneficiary of all these things. A benefactor does good, a beneficiary has it done to them.

This picture caption was published on Tuesday: “Filming scenes for Thor: The Dark World at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.” That stately complex of buildings is seen in so many movies that we really do need to know what it is called. Wren built it as the Royal Hospital for Seamen. In 1873 it became the Royal Naval College, but since 1998 it has been occupied by Greenwich University. The buildings, however, are known as the Old Royal Naval College.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect