November 30, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Nuance. It’s a word you hear a lot about in media circles. Fareed Zakaria uses it on average three times per sentence I think. Personally I don’t think I’d used it more than a coupla’ times prior to entering the world of journalism. It has come to carry with it the very strong whiff of media snootiness. It seems to me that when those who would describe “ordinary people’s” views as lacking nuance, what they really mean — in very a nuanced way of course — is that people are just plain dumb.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like phone-ins nor interactive shows nor blogs because people are so ill-informed. When the Archbishop of Canterbury made his remarks about Sharia a few months ago there were howls from many journalists at how the public were roasting old fuzzy-brows for saying that Sharia had a place alongside UK law. Why can’t these people (that’s us, the public) understand that his Grace only meant to imply it . . . he never actually said it.

Sadly the difference between “imply” and “said” is just too . . . well . . nuanced for those few million or so offended by the comments and most of whom know that whatever was implied or said . . . it was pretty well clear what he meant.

My point is however, it doesn’t matter whether a huge tide of sweeping public opinion is based on a fallacy or not — what’s important is that media organisations report on it but do so in a way that reflects the weight of opinion.

Take Obama’s alleged muslim faith — this was a smear put about by a few GOP supporters during the recent US election campaign but which was reported only very occasionally, accurately reflecting the small minority of deranged nutters who actually believed it.

So let’s do away with this word — I don’t even like the sound of it anyway.


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