November 21, 2005

For Those of You Scoring at Home ...

Slate's "Explainer" column on Friday dealt with parsing the Woodwardian epithet "senior administration official."

The Confidence Man has a suggestion--a modified tool to balm Slate's Jack Shafer and other critics of the overuse of "anonymice."

What if an individual news organization were to codify its use of such positional epithets?

For example, the Washington Post could run a box buried deep inside the National or Politics section--and/or, certainly, at the WaPo website, a standalone page--with a list of all of the persons (or, perhaps, positions/offices/departments) fitting under each rubric.

For the first several months of this innovation, the news organization could have an editorial policy of, every first use of an anonymouse, appending a parenthetic: "(see box, page X)" (with a hyperlink on "box" in the online version). Of course, there should also probably be an editor's/publisher's note at the outset of the policy, and thereafter a smaller version accompanying the anonymouse rosters.

After the introductory period, the rosters would stay, but the explanatory note and in-text parenthetics could be deled. (The online versions could, potentially and advisably, retain the hyperlinks to the rosters, perhaps on first use of "anonymous.")

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