It is what you call it
One of the things that I absolutely adore is talking about the nuance of the news. Not just any news, although I like that too, I like talking about headlines and storylines, credits in the present tense, and the capitalization of words according to a style, particularly in relation to The River Reporter.
(Before it’s printed, preferably.)
I guess that’s a really good thing, because the production of a newspaper involves all of those things. Beyond collecting the raw material and digitizing it for publication, a particular eye is needed to detail, accuracy, nuance, and meaning. And if it’s not fun, or it’s a struggle to just keep focused on the grammar and the broader picture and not the drama between peoples and our attachment to our way of seeing things, it can be just plain awful. (Tedious, frustrating and "who really has time to consider these nuances. There are deadlines to meet!" Among a whole host of other responsibilities.)
But that was not the case on Tuesday afternoon when we were talking about a couple of headlines that used the word “locals.”
Locals, in one sense, is a label and I’m wasn’t sure that the label did not have hidden elements that could be interpreted as negative. So I asked the staff about it in an impromptu meeting.
In my mind I explained, when some people use the term “locals,” it has the connotation of “local yokel”—someone to whom that namer sees as less than [other or themselves].
Oh no, I was assured. Local just means people who live here, as opposed to transplants.
We talked about the difference between local and native. We laughed when it was mentioned that even if you lived here 44 years, you were not a native. I said that I was the mother of a native.
Some even said that you had to be born here to be local. Otherwise, you were a transplant.
I have to say that in my 40 years living here, I have never really heard the word transplant in relation to new residents. (Although now, I have heard it twice in a week.)
As a gardener, I love the concept of a transplant. It connotes a very organic mingling—plants who are native and local, growing alongside plants that have been transplanted and now share the same garden space.
It’s a comforting thought, as we all witness a cascading news landscape with one twist after another.
Case in point: the election is over, some races haven't even been called yet, and the nation is grappling with the termination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
And the media is under attack.
A CNN news reporter has had his credentials stripped and a video of the incident has been altered to support the government’s claims that he was aggressive toward a White House Intern.
I caught a snatch of an NPR interview with Sean Spicer, and he was incredibly aggressive with the reporter, calling her out on asking what he called a question with a “left-wing” interpretation.
What the reporter did ask was the question, “Some people are saying that the firing of Jeff Session is a maneuver by the president to get control of the Mueller investigation, do you think that is true?" or something like that.
Instead of answering the question, Spicer went into his rage about the nature of the phrasing of the question. The reporter defended herself, saying, “I am asking you, do you think this interpretation has any merit?”
In the end, Spicer didn’t answer the question and said that it was well known that Trump didn’t get along with Jeff Sessions and that he was entitled, as President, to have an Attorney General whom he gets along with.
And with that, I am simply amazed that language, and its manipulation in relation to connotation, nuance, and framing, is such a weapon. And, at the same time, it can be such a powerful tool.
In the newsroom of The River Reporter, as I imagine in the newsrooms across the country, we engage with an eye to detail to aid in community understanding and to use language that is inclusive, as well as accurate and well presented.
In these times of great ideological stances, I am more committed as the publisher of a local community newspaper to use the lens of words and meaning to shape a healthy resilient community for us all—natives, locals, transplants, second-home owners, parents, siblings, young and old growing together in what is truly a magnificent garden.