Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The 119 Words You Can't Say On Tribune Radio and TV Stations

By Ken Levine

Randy Michaels is the CEO of the Tribune Company. Once a major broadcasting and publishing giant (Chicago Tribune, LA Times, etc.), it is now crumbling like a sand castle. And Michaels, who in a similar role with Clear Channel Communication, laid the groundwork for that empire to collapse.

So it’s understandable why Tribune would hire a non-newspaper man to oversee their operation in it's most dire time. Anyway, recently he issued an edict to the news director of WGN radio listing 119 words or phrases WGN newscasters were no longer allowed to say.

WGN, Chicago was once one of the most respected radio stations in America.
I can just see it -- "Mr. Michaels, the editor of the Los Angeles Times is on line one. He can't meet payroll."

"Call them back! I'm busy with something far more important! Let me see... "pedestrian". We can't have our newscasters say pedestrian."

The absurdity continues as Michaels instructed WGN staffers to snitch on each other if they hear one of these dastardly words aired. "Dan, I know you hired me and rescued my family from financial ruin but you said "at risk" on the 5:30 cast so I just sent a text to Randy Michaels."

Oh, the morale must be sky high.

So here is the complete list.

“Flee” meaning “run away”“Good” or “bad” news“Laud” meaning “praise”“Seek” meaning “look for”“Some” meaning “about”“Two to one margin” . . . “Two to one” is a ratio, not a margin.

A margin is measured in points. It’s not a ratio. “Yesterday” in a lead sentence, “Youth” meaning “child”, 5 a.m. in the morning, After the break, After these commercial messages, Aftermath

All of you, Allegations, Alleged, Area residents, As expected, At risk, At this point in time, Authorities, Auto accident, Bare naked. Behind bars, Behind closed doors, Behind the podium (you mean lecturn), Best kept secret, Campaign trail, Clash with police, Close proximity, Complete surprise, Completely destroyed, completely abolished, completely finished or any other completely redundant use.

Death toll, Definitely possible, Diva, Down in (location), Down there, Dubbaya when you mean double you, Everybody (when referring to the audience), Eye Rack or Eye Ran, False pretenses Famed, Fatal death, Fled on foot, Folks, Giving 110%, Going forward, Gunman, especially lone gunman, Guys, Hunnert when you mean hundred, Icon, In a surprise move, In harm’s way, In other news, In the wake of (unless it’s a boating story), Incarcerated, Informed sources say.

Killing spree, Legendary, Lend a helping hand, Literally, Lucky to be alive, Manhunt, Marred, Medical hospital, Mother of all (anything), Motorist, Mute point (It’s moot point, but don’t say that either)

Near miss, No brainer, Officials, Our top story tonight, Out in (location), Out there, Over in, Pedestrian, Perfect storm, Perished, Perpetrator, Plagued, Really, Reeling, Reportedly, Seek, Senseless murder, Shots rang out, Shower activity, Sketchy details, Some (meaning about), Some of you, Sources say.

Speaking out, Stay tuned, The fact of the matter, Those of you, Thus, Time for a break, To be fair, Torrential rain, Touch base, Under fire, Under siege, Underwent surgery, Undisclosed, Undocumented alien, Unrest, Untimely death, Up in (location), Up there, Utilize (you mean use), Vehicle, We’ll be right back, Welcome back, Welcome back everybody, We’ll be back, Went terribly wrong, We’re back, White stuff, World class, You folks.


To help guide the WGN news staff I've written a couple of examples of how news stories should now sound. What can I say? I'm a giver.

"In other bummer news today, President John Kennedy was shot and is believed dead but not fatally. He underwent that thing that doctors do when they cut you open and the results were not awesome. The gang-of-one armed homo sapien they think did it – Lee Harvey Oswald – tore ass out of the adjacent book depository as men in blue uniforms with responsibility ran after him, giving it somewhere between 109 and 111%. At the moment we have crude pencil doodle details but the innocent-until-proven-guilty murderer is still in close propinquity. According to reliable no-name people with knowledge, the FBI is lending that appendage with an opposable thumb. Mrs. Kennedy, the mammy of all her children is submerged in the dumps as a result of her husband being untimely whacked. You can drain the lizard for two minutes because I won’t be reading any more news until then."

"Reports from the U.N. in Ee-Ran have Dee-termined U-ranium eff-orts Bee-lieved U-seable are ex-traneous. Meanwhile, fighting has become explosive and by that I mean things have actually gone boom. For retreating Ee-ranian soldiers, their boot heels have been a wandering since they are car and truckless. Many people were in harm’s crosshairs. The corpse count continues to climb but one non-military looky-loo who survived a near-hit said he’s lucky to still be pre-deceased. The end to the bloodshed is possibly definite but for now army guys with fruit salad on their uniforms say bombers will maintain their over fire. Coming up after you flog your bishop Marcie will have weekend weather including details on what could be an ideal storm."

Ken Levine

KEN LEVINE is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer. In a career that has spanned over 30 years Ken has worked on MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, BECKER, DHARMA & GREG, and has co-created his own series including ALMOST PERFECT starring Nancy Travis. He and his partner wrote the feature VOLUNTEERS. Ken has also been the radio/TV play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres. Currently Ken is the host of Dodger Talk after every Dodger game on Talkradio 790 KABC, Los Angeles.


Glad to see Randy has so much free time. These are the sort of ideas that bankrupt Tribune just paid out $45 million dollars in executive bonuses for. Wow! -BD

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