Pros and Cons riffs on the line between terminology and jargon and triggers my PNSD (post-newsroom stress disorder).
One man's terminology is another man's jargon, but you do have to assume some level of shared vocabulary. Unless you are a copy editor.
One man's copy editor is another man's nuance-destroying, prose-homogenizing, style-book-wielding grammar nazi.
I've had my rhetorical butt saved by copy editors, mostly in the early days of their careers, before they went over to the dark side. And, in those early days, you could have some interesting discussions about usage and style.
"Style" in newspapers is different than "style" in magazines. Magazines are, by and large, edited so that all the articles appear to be written by the same person. There is a "style" such that a Cosmo article sounds like a Cosmo article and a New Yorker piece sounds like a New Yorker piece, and it begins by only buying articles that already somewhat mimic the tone and texture of the magazine, but then editing them so that they completely do.
Newspaper style, however, means following conventions of spelling, punctuation and other formatting rules, which is similar to the meaning of "style" that academic writers follow, commonly either Chicago or MLA.
Newspapers follow some of their own, local rules: When I worked in Plattsburgh, N.Y., we wrote about the "North Country," but, over in Watertown, they covered the "north country." We also capitalized "State Trooper," while some papers did not.
But papers generally follow AP Style, so that you don't have one reporter writing about "5 dogs" while another writes about "five dogs," or stories about Timbuktu, Timbuctoo and Timbouqtou all running in the same paper.
I think most writers and editors were happy to see the late leader of Libya toppled for just this reason. It wasn't that they hadn't come up with an official spelling of his name, but nobody could remember which one they had settled on without looking it up.
I enjoyed sparring over usage issues with the desk, but I was never successful in disagreements over jargon. For instance, my contention was that, in a border community where much of our business involved cross-border trade, it was not necessary to write out "Free Trade Agreement" on first reference in the business section.
My argument was that the sports section didn't have to write out "runs batted in" in a story before they could switch to the acronym RBI. You can assume that readers of a specialized type of story understand the terms they're likely to encounter there, whether it's sports, business, cooking or the arts.
Arguments on how things are done in the Toy Department, however, do not carry any weight with the desk.
None of which mattered when you had some Lou Grant type yelling and swearing and dictating style based on his own opinions.
For one thing, you don't get to be Lou Grant by majoring in journalism and reading books about newswriting. You do it by standing up to your ankles in slush in your good shoes, freezing your ass off in a sports coat covering a fire on a day you dressed for covering a speech at the goddam Rotary Club.
After which you learned to keep a pair of boots and an old jacket in the trunk of your car and not to give a good god damn about what some chalk-dust-covered classroom professor thinks should be capitalized.
For another, Lou Grant is the goddam editor and you work for him, goddammit. If he doesn't think "predeceased" is a goddam word, it doesn't matter if it's in the goddam dictionary. It's not gonna appear in his goddam newspaper.
But once editors with advanced degrees started talking about "nut grafs" instead of "what the goddam story is about," things got, well, different. There's a big difference between "because I said so" and "because I'm right."
Lou Grant didn't insult your intelligence by claiming some higher knowledge. He simply pulled rank. Fair enough.
For me, the breaking point came when some button-down genius decided that "in lieu of bail" was jargon, and persuaded copy editors everywhere to agree, which brings us back, at long last, to today's "Pros & Cons."
I have never personally been held in lieu of bail, but I've certainly known plenty of people who have. And I further would argue that people who read the police reports know exactly what it means. You don't have to explain "in lieu of bail" to someone reading a crime story any more than you have to explain "home run" to somebody reading the sports page or "broil" to someone reading the food section.
But the desk had declared it jargon and so there you have it. What they didn't come up with was a work-around to avoid using the obvious, succinct, common and commonly-understood term.
At the paper I was then working at, and I swear I'm not making this up, they finally settled on "He was ordered held in County Jail because he did not pay $5,000 bail."
But first they played with "because he would not pay" and "because he could not pay" before they decided not to impute motivation or capabilities and simply go with that fact that he didn't.
But, goddammit, he's in jail because he's suspected of robbing the liquor store. He's not in jail because he "did not pay $5,000 bail."
You might as well say he's in jail because he "is wearing an orange jump suit."
The joke in today's cartoon is that a stupid guy is making things more complicated than they need to be, when, really, it's the goddam geniuses who do that.