Losing Battles and Other Journalists' Clichés

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

![Mum & Dad](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/assets_c/2008/08/27 Wedding-thumb-160x264.jpg)People don’t lose battles with cancer. From the BBC’s Will & Testament blog:

> It’s unfortunate, however, that The Daily Telegraph chose to run with the headline “Sudders the blogger loses cancer fight”. Anyone familiar with Sudders’s story must know that the word “lose” does not apply in his case. Nor does it apply, in fact, in the story of anyone who dies following a cancer diagnosis.
I’ve watched both my parents die of cancer (that’s them on the right, setting off on their honeymoon, back in the 60s). Dad lasted 9 months from diagnosis, Mum two and a half years. Dad made my brother’s wedding, and was healthy for it, when the initial diagnosis was that he wouldn’t. Mum lived an active and healthy life, even attending (and enjoying) a charity ball, weeks before she died. Neither of them lost their fights with cancer. In both cases, death was inevitable. But they both took what they needed from the life they had left. The stock phrase “lost their battle” puts the emphasis on the wrong place; the cancer, not the life.
The problem is lazy journalism – the rote use of familiar, stock phrases instead of crafting something accurate and individual to the case. I had an editor once who used to tell me that she’d made my stories more “punchy”. Inevitable, that meant she’d added the phrase “hit out at” to the copy, or some variation thereof. To read the average issue of that publication, you’d think that the industry was full of fisticuffs.
It’s part of that [journalistic arrogance](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2008/08/07/become_a_better_citizen_journalist.php), in an unconscious way; the reduction of an individual story composed of people into a stock category box. And, as the web allows real, human stories to emerge the way [Adrian Sudbury’s did](http://baldyblog.freshblogs.co.uk/), we can’t afford to do that any more.
ann tinworthcancerdadfamilyJournalismJournalistswriting

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.