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AT ISSUE: CNN debates adding slang words to news reports to attract younger audiences

In an effort to expand viewership, CNN is exploring the possibility of adding slang and "hip-hop" phrases to news.

That's just wack.

Among the phrases under consideration are "flava," which means style, "freak" meaning sex, and "ill," which basically means to act inappropriately.

CNN's average viewing age is 62. Bear in mind that not every 62-year-old is as jive-savvy as Barbara Billingsley (television's June Cleaver) was in the movie "Airplane."

"CNN is taking a good idea to an ultimately illogical conclusion," said Steve Bell, former ABC News anchor and professor of telecommunications. "If the language is only used by a small part of the audience, it will make it difficult to understand."

Bell pointed out that most slang words are judgment words that offer an opinion. News writing seeks to eliminate words that stand in the way of journalistic neutrality. Journalism should create a conversation with the reader/viewer, but it should also be straight and to the point.

Adding phrases such as these would confuse more viewers than it would attract - or, even worse, destroy the slang we know - and those younger viewers who recognize their own language coming back at them from a predominantly white, middle-aged news media may resent these efforts as those of ill-advised poseurs.

Ever get that weird feeling when parents try to be hip and fail? This would cause a magnified version of that feeling. Slang has historically been the product of a rebellion against conventional language - this would effectively stop that rebellion.

In other words, if CNN wants to be fresh or dope, they had best recognize: The viewing audience will know CNN is fronting. (If that was awkward, imagine straight news doing the same thing.)

CNN should just keep it real, and stick to the brand of journalism that has brought it so much success.


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