This article demonstrates how passive voice and changes in verb tenses can be used to retell events that have happened to someone else.
Earlier this week our local paper, The Language Snaps Times published an exposé on manipulated reporting. The articled focused on Snap City’s report on UFO sightings, which claimed unusual alien activity near the town center. Below are three examples of how the article’s author manipulated quotes to fit a particular storyline.
In the first section of the article, the author states “Mr. Ben saw an unidentified flying saucer the day before yesterday.” In fact, Mr. Ben clearly recalls telling his wife “I think I see a plane in the sky.” How does a plane transform into a UFO? A probable explanation is that the reporter did not receive this comment directly from Mr. Ben, but from sources who overheard his wife talking about the exchange a few days later.
The caption of a UFO photo is equally problematic. It states “UFOs have been seen around town.” The language misinforms readers! It does not communicate who has seen the UFOs in question, and does not prove if the photo depicts a UFO related to the supposed spike in sightings. Although the source of the photo has been unconfirmed, we have reason to believe it is actually from earlier sightings in a neighboring town.
Finally, the timeline of events is off. The article claims that “A UFO is flying around me as I write these very words. It is red and blue.” How do we know that a UFO flew around the author as they wrote the article? How do we know that it was red and blue? We don’t! There is simply no proof and Snap City should be ashamed of its misleading reporting!
- How is the passive voice used in journalism?
- Do you believe it is an ethical practice? Why or why not?