Category Archives: veazey bud

“Another overbearing, opinionated memo”

For many years, Bud Veazey functioned as a one-man language enforcement agency at WAGA.  Despite the futility of the position, he remained persistent and amusing.  Recently, he posted a collection of his memos on his Facebook page, which I’ve reproduced below in total.

Though a bit voluminous, every word is worth reading and heeding — especially his complaints about “allegedly,” “literally” and “tonight” (although I still retain a perverse affection for “at this hour…”).

Veazey retired from WAGA after 20 or so years as the number-two guy in the newsroom, and began custom-building electric guitars.  If a cool new guitar is on your shopping list, you should consider buying one.  Merry Christmas!

Fri, 13 Jun 2003 17:14:19 (EDT)

From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers
Subject: “bust” again

Please remember than many of our viewers—those who actually were taught English grammar in school—take great offense at the use of the word “bust” as a synonym for “burst” or “break.”

A balloon is burst, not busted. A window is broken or shattered, not busted.

It’s perfectly acceptable in conversational copy to refer to an arrest or a police raid as a “bust.” However, many of our viewers and yours truly still believe that it is unacceptable to use “bust” as a synonym for burst or break.

Fri, 7 Nov 2003 17:05:39 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters
Subject: “At this hour”

When you’re telling a story to your spouse, significant other, friend or mother, do you ever use the phrase “at this hour?”

It’s a dumb ass journalese convention and cliché that intelligent people ought to be able to wean themselves from using. Humor the old man and stop it. There is nothing wrong with the words “now,” or “right now.” And, please don’t replace “at this hour” with “as we speak.” I’ll have a freaking stroke.

The VZ Purpleheart Tele

Wed, 17 Dec 2003 17:58:49 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “center around”

It is literally and figuratively impossible to “center around” something. An investigation can center “on” police activity, but it cannot center “around” it. Think about it. It’s common sense. The center of anything is a point. How can a point surround anything? Better yet, how about using a more specific phrase like “focus on?”

Wed, 17 Dec 2003 17:20:27 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers
Subject: “Incredible”

It’s incredible how often we use the word “incredible” to describe things and events that really aren’t all that incredible. Please make me incredibly happy and give the word “incredible” a rest and reserve its use for something that really is “incredible.”

Tue, 17 Aug 2004 18:11:47 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Allegedly”

Please use a little common sense when using the word “allegedly.” We often drop the word into our copy when it is either redundant or meaningless. I suppose it’s a misguided effort to avoid finding someone guilty of a crime before they are tried. If we say, “Police said John Doe shot Jane Doe,” it is unnecessary to say, “Police said John Doe ALLEGEDLY shot Jane Doe.” The allegation has been attributed to authorities.

If someone has been convicted of a crime you can stop saying he ALLEGEDLY committed the crime. A jury has agreed he did it.

And please, when you are writing about an unknown perpetrator of a crime, don’t write “alleged robber.” If we know there was a robbery, it’s an unchallenged fact that there was a robber.

Use common sense and listen to what you write.

Tue, 7 Sep 2004 17:50:12 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: The word most often misused in Television journalism

The most misused word has to be “literally.” Over the weekend I heard the word used incorrectly, or stupidly, more times than I could count by network reporters and local reporters alike.

You won’t go wrong if you will remember one simple rule: Do not use the word “literally” in a sentence unless there is some likelihood that a listener might be confused as to whether you are speaking “literally” or “figuratively.”

If you are standing in water up to your knees, it is redundant and a little silly to say, “The water is literally up to my knees.” Of course it is. We can see it. Is there any likelihood the viewer might think you were speaking figuratively? It’s as dumb as saying something like, “My head is literally splitting,” to describe a headache. If your head is literally splitting, I’m getting out of the way

Strike a blow for the English language. Listen to what you write and say.

Wed, 18 May 2005 17:26:19 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Suspects”

Foolish optimist that I am, I will once again try to explain the proper use of the word “suspect” in the hope that eventually someone will get it.

Police have a “suspect” when—and only when—they know, or think they know, who they are looking for. In other words, an individual has been identified as a “suspect” in the crime. If no one has been identified, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!

Take a moment and think about the logic.

Until a “suspect” has been identified, police are looking for a robber, a burglar, a purse snatcher, a rapist, a murderer, a reckless driver, a bad person, a clown, a mime, etc.

Once again, if police haven’t identified a person as a suspect, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!!

(I know police officers misuse the word “suspect.” If you are using police speak as your example for writing your stories, we have a problem bigger than the misuse of a word.)

Fri, 20 May 2005 12:35:28 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: Present Tense Leads

I know this will cause a controversy, but as you all know I have strong opinions on certain topics. The present tense lead is one of those topics.

I don’t care what your last news director told you; there is nothing conversational about present tense leads. Some people think they add immediacy to a story. Usually they do nothing but confuse the listener.

The present tense lead is great for teases when used properly. It seldom works as the lead to a story, especially when the writer adds a time reference or mixes tenses.

For instance, what does this lead mean? “A man dies when his car crashes today on I-20.” Has there been a crash or are we predicting one? Take “today” out and the lead is okay, but I still contend it is not conversational. What’s wrong with saying, “A car crash on I-20 today killed a man?”

Here’s a lead from our Noon newscast today:  “A senior at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont receives a special present during graduation.”

If you are telling this story to a friend, wouldn’t you have said “…received a special present…?” We’re supposed to be telling stories, not slavishly following the rules we learned from some journalism school instructor who worked 15 minutes in Podunk as an associate producer, or some consultant who flunked as news director. Forget the rules. Go with your instincts. If I don’t like your instincts I’ll write another overbearing, opinionated memo.

Here’s another problem with present tense leads from our Noon newscast: “A 16-year-old girl is in the hospital after a gun goes off…hitting her in the chest.”

A girl is in the hospital and a gun goes off. We have a clue that the gun went off because “after” was stuck in the middle of the sentence. Is that really how we speak? If you insist on using a present tense lead—and I wish you wouldn’t—how about, “A shotgun blast sends a girl to the hospital.”

Those are my thoughts. Feel free to argue with me.

Thu, 26 May 2005 17:35:11 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Young Child”

It’s redundant. A child is a young human being. “Child” is sufficient. If you feel the need to be more specific, use words like infant, toddler, pre-teen, teenager, or the child’s age.

Wed, 31 Aug 2005 12:25:11 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: While I’m on my soapbox…

“Destroyed” is like pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. “Completely” destroyed is ridiculously redundant. “Partially destroyed” is “damaged.”

Tue, 25 Oct 2005 18:51:01 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters
Subject: “Tonight”

Please avoid inserting the word “tonight” unnecessarily in your standups and anchoring. The effect of this misguided attempt to add “immediacy” to your copy not only is not conversational, it can also be misleading.

In this evening’s newscast, in the “A” section, a reporter said someone was seriously injured “tonight” even though the injury occurred much earlier in the day.

An anchor said, “A mother and daughter are seriously injured “tonight” after an SUV came crashing into a dentist’s office.” Two common sense rules were broken here: a present tense lead—which is not conversational writing—should never have a time reference. In addition, the people were hurt, not tonight, but earlier in the day.

I know some news director told you once to say “tonight” whenever possible to make an old story new, but it just doesn’t work.

Fri, 30 Dec 2005 17:47:02 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Out of”

You can go “out of” a door; you can run “out of” money; if you’re Sgt. Joe Friday on “Dragnet” you can be working “out of” robbery division. However, breaking news happens “in” a location not “out of” a location.

We don’t have a “report on breaking news OUT OF Atlanta. We have a “report on breaking news IN Atlanta.

Please put “out of” on the list of phrases which, when misused, really get me agitated. I’m too old to get agitated.

Wed, 11 Jan 2006 12:26:22 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Very latest”

Just call me Don Quixote, but I’ll tilt at this windmill until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

“Very latest” like “very pregnant” or “very unique” is ridiculously redundant. The news doesn’t get any “later” because you add “very.”

Once upon a time long ago a news anchor uttered “very latest” and a news director and consultant said “this is good.” From that time forward “very latest” joined the lexicon of journalese clichés such as “at this hour,” “only time will tell,” “winter wonderland,” “the nation’s midsection,” and “officials say.”

Please help me in my crusade to stamp out “very latest” before I go to that big newsroom in the sky.

[A 2008 version of this memo follows]

Wed, 20 Feb 2008 16:07:00 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “completely destroyed” redux

Please add to your list of redundant phrases to be avoided “very latest.” If it’s the “latest” it ain’t going to get any “later” just because you added “very.” Sometimes I think we go for word count instead of making our words count.

Cold Warrior: SSG Veazey on the Armed Forces Korea Network, 1970

November 11, 2003
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: Another Pet Peeve

Please don’t lapse into police speak and say things like “…the victim was shot multiple time.” (We’ll ignore the passive nature of the phrase for now.) I believe if you were telling the story to your dear old Granny, you might say, “…the victim was shot SEVERAL times.” When you write your stories, think of your dear old Granny.

August 30, 2002
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: Conversational, active voice copy

One of our common goals is to write conversational copy—telling a story to our viewers much as we might tell it to a friend.

If that’s our goal, why in the name of Walter Cronkite do we write sentences like: “Anyone who may have any information on the crime is asked to call the police…”

Make is active. Make it conversational: “If you have any information on the crime, call the police.”

September 17, 2002
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Snuck”

Even though I am sure it will eventually sneak into the English language as acceptable usage, at the moment there is no such word as “snuck.” The past tense of sneak is “sneaked.” Please wait until I go to the big newsroom in the sky before using the word “snuck” in our news copy.

July 18, 2002
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “Brutalizing”

We said in our 5 p.m. newscast that the Inglewood police officer was caught on tape “brutalizing” a suspect in handcuffs. In my opinion this is an editorial comment and is inappropriate. The objective, observable facts are that the officer is seen on tape slamming the young man into the hood of the police car and he is seen striking the handcuffed man in the face. Whether he “brutalized the man is up to either the police department’s internal affairs division or a jury to decide. Be careful of subjective words.

January 30, 2004
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: “No Word Yet”

“No word yet.” Here’s a phrase that needs a rest. Often “no word yet” is the beginning phrase of the last sentence of a v/o, for instance, no word yet how the fire started, no word yet on the condition of the victim, no word yet on what caused the accident, no word yet on who shot John, etc.

“No word yet” often is code for “the P.I.O. hasn’t returned my call.” If you don’t know the information and it’s important to report that we don’t know the information, just say “we don’t know” or “we’ve been unable to find out…” or use your creativity to explain our lack of information.

The first question to ask yourself is, “Why do we need to tell our viewers what we don’t know?”

“No word yet” doesn’t need to be banned, but at least there ought to be a moratorium.

Also, please keep in mind that nothing sounds dumber than the phrase “no word yet” in an evening news story about an event that happened at 7  in the morning.

From TV's infancy

May 14, 2004
From: Veazey
To: Reporters, Producers, Managers
Subject: Whether or not…NOT

This is one of those losing battles, call me a stubborn tilter at windmills if you must. “Or not” when used with “whether” is redundant and therefore unnecessary.

For example: A jury will decide whether a person is guilty of something. We don’t know whether dinosaurs could talk.

It’s understood when you use the word “whether” that there is a choice between two conditions, usually true or false. “Or not” is superfluous.

Wed, 4 Sep 2002 13:03:50 (EDT)
From: Veazey
To: All
Subject: Keep your hands out of the toilet

Someone, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., is regularly taking the deodorant blocks out of the toilets in the men’s restroom next to the newsroom and throwing them on the floor.

We all have our phobias and idiosyncrasies, but toiletdeodorantblockophobia is a new one on me. If you are the person who has an aversion to toilet deodorant blocks, please find another way to deal with it. (There’s probably an organization with support groups or a web site.)

Anyhow, keep yer hands outta da terlet!

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Subject: Physical appeal

Thanks, Bud V., whose note Mrs. LAF found in a box this month.  Yes, I would like to respond.

Dear zxtime@aol.com:

Thanks for writing.  Sorry I’m nearly sixteen years late.  I am in receipt of your critique regarding my “presumed afro” and its impact on your viewer reception.

At the time you wrote this note — January 1995 — my haircut (“hairstyle” would be too strong a word) was a peculiar eraser-shaped gravity-defying pile that lacked the shape expected in your stereotypically square-jawed TV reporter.  It isn’t surprising that it upset you.  Presumably, your letter reflected the feelings of thousands of other viewers.  One could conclude that this channel-switching look may have singlehandedly accounted for WAGA’s inability to catch WSB in the ratings in the 90s, a permanent legacy that continues to this day.  Sorry about that.

Regrettably, this “discord,” as you call it, continues.  Though the hair has changed color in the last sixteen years — close inspection of the above photo would reveal the first gray strands — its unruly character hasn’t.  Neither has my discipline to cut it effectively and regularly.

Bob Forehead

For the last ten years, an elderly man with hand tremors has cut my hair in a storefront behind a barber pole.  He charges $14.  I usually give him a twenty; it’s still a bargain compared to the $40 I paid for the haircut shown above, coiffed by a charming woman named Gina at a Buckhead salon that offered shampoos and head massages as well.  Though the exchange rate has improved and the hair is cut shorter now, the quality is currently very spotty.   This means that each 21st century haircut results in a moment of hell-raising by Mrs. LAF, who denounces the haircut, the shaky-handed barber and my general inability to make sound decisions.

This blowback now frequently results in haircut procrastination, thus yielding  wiry old-guy offshoots from the ears, brows and neck, and a freakish, spiked  Einsteinesque look that seems to only lack the mustache and the brainpower.  In other words, zxtime@aol.com, the discord continues;  the lesson goes unlearned, despite your gentle suggestion to the contrary back in the mid-90s.  WXIA is now saddled with a bad hair day that has gone on for more than two decades in Atlanta TV.

Thanks for watching back in 1995.  Perhaps you are among the viewers slowly switching to WXIA, where you can find top-notch, stress-free haircuts among the likes of Jerry Carnes, Ross McLaughlin and Ted Hall.  Please feel free to use my appearances on TV as an excuse to grab a soothing beverage from another room.

When “the latest” isn’t late enough…

Memorandum

From:  Bud Veazey

To:  Reporters, producers, anchors, promotions

Re:  “the very latest,” et al

A good writing teacher will tell you, “Never use two words when one word will do.” TV reporters and writers turn that rule on its head. Take “very latest” for instance. How many times have you heard an anchor tell you he or she will have the “very latest” on a story after the commercial break or that reporter John Doe has the “very latest” from the scene?

Shouldn’t “latest” be enough? What’s the difference between “very latest” and “latest?” Am I getting my money’s worth when I’m getting only the “latest” information?

I recently heard a reporter refer to a “brazen and bold” robber. Why not just “brazen?” Why not just “bold?” Aren’t the two words synonyms?

Get yourself a six-pack and take a sip every time you hear an unnecessary or redundant adjective in a TV newscast. You’ll be knee-walking drunk by 7 p.m. (Okay, I exaggerate. I once wrote TV news and habits of hyperbole are hard to break.)

In another place: Bud Veazey

After decades of reading and correcting TV news copy, I came to the conclusion that it must be a rhythm thing, sort of like the iambic pentameter of reporter tracking. Perhaps reporters and writers throw in superfluous adjectives and adverbs for the same reason producers insist on three teases on a break—it just feels right. That’s the reason you’ll see a tease for a 15-second video of a car wreck in Seattle. The story is hardly worthy of advance promotion, but a producer needed a third tease to maintain the rhythm.

Don’t get me started on “young child,” “very unique,” or “completely destroyed.”

Until his retirement in 2007, Bud Veazey was assistant news director at WAGA, where he wrote memos like this regularly (minus the “take a sip” challenge, unfortunately…).  Veazey now creates and restores guitars.  Visit his ebay page here.