Mister Mister

Saturday, January 6th, 2007, 11:56 am

A couple of months ago I was quoted in a Post-Gazette story about the UIGEA. Good for the ego, except that in the piece I was referred to as “Mr. Bromberg”. And that was a bit weird. Made me feel old. And I’m not old. The neverending pain in my shoulders notwithstanding.

I’m not the only one to get the Mister treatment. A few months ago the Post-Gazette changed the way they refer to…human beings. Instead of simply identifying me as “Bromberg”, the PG now anoints its subjects with the honorific “Mr” or “Mrs” or “Ms”. I think this was to make the PG sound more like the New York Times, the Paper of Record, who also does this.

And who shouldn’t. Because it’s silly. It’s silly, say, to refer to Saddam Hussein as “Mr. Hussein”. It’s silly to refer to Bill Cowher as “Mr. Cowher”, as Bob Smizik had to do 16 times in a column about the Steeler coach stepping down. As I read Smizik’s column all those “Mr. Cowher’s” became a distraction. I almost thought he was doing it on purpose to piss off his editor. Or his readers.

And it’s silly to refer to me as “Mr. Bromberg”. The false dignity that using “Mr.” bestows is overshadowed by how irritating it is to read over and over again. And let’s not forget that newsprint is expensive–there are only so many column inches available. Instead of typing “Mr.” 16 times Smizik could’ve written another whole paragraph of useful words. Think about how much nuance, insight and analysis is being lost over the course of a year because writers have to chop out real words to make space for all those honorifics. No wonder newspapers are struggling so these days. Don’t the folks running them think?

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One Response to “Mister Mister”

  1. Scoop Says:

    One reason some papers do this is to simplify stories that feature several members of the same family. Using standard AP style, just last names, won’t work, so reporters have to refer to each person by full name each time. A paper that uses courtesy titles often evades that problem (though not, of course, in a story about father/son or brothers).

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