The Return of Tarzan


“Man dies after driving off cliff.”

“Search teams activated as skiers go missing.”

Who talks like this? No one, except Tarzan and TV news anchors.

I’m not sure when this style of broadcast journalism came into vogue. My journalism instructors, most of whom were professional broadcasters who taught part-time, hammered away the credo, “write like you talk.”  We talk in short, conversational, active voice sentences. But somewhere a new generation of teachers and mentors got the idea that writing in active voice means writing in present tense.

House burns to the ground, leaves family homeless.”

I don’t talk like this. Why would I broadcast like this? 

When you tune in to Northwest Today,  you won’t hear me speak in present tense, unless I tell my favorite joke about the duck buying chap stick from the pharmacist. Or,  if  you’re within earshot of my desk, you’ll get my  impression of Tarzan as I read present tense copy out loud. “Tarzan don’t know how fire burn down treehouse. Must ask Jane. She know fire marshal.”

When I’m on the air I speak to one person. That’s you. In my head before every story, I start off with a mental sentence. “Guess what?”  “You’re not going to believe this.” “Did you hear?” Then I talk, in short, conversational sentences.   

 Car plunges off cliff, family perishes.

(This is horrible, but) “A family has died in a car crash.”

Congress stalemate could force government shut down.

(Have you heard the latest?) “It looks like Congress is running out of time to avoid the shutdown. ” 

If you hear a TV anchor speak in present tense,  whether you’re watching us or another station, call us out. Hop onto our Facebook page, call the news room, ask for the guy in the loin cloth and say, “Me think you speak funny, dude.”

BTW: “This duck walks into Walgreens, waddles up to the pharmacist and orders a tube of chap stick. The druggist asks, “Will this be cash?” The duck says, “No. Just put it on my bill.”

Cheeta just scream when Tarzan tells this one at Banana Hour.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Return of Tarzan

  1. Sandra & Les Mauws

    Well now I am better educated about why news is reported the way it is, & the Duck joke is funny lol

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