The Washington Post

Losing specificit­y

- Alyse Graham, Washington

The Aug. 30 news article about a woman hospitaliz­ed for the coronaviru­s who returned home to find her husband dead from the virus, “Woman: ‘It was like walking into a horror movie,’ ” deserved closer attention from a strong editor. A sentence in the piece began: “The couple, who met through a Christian dating website after losing their previous partners . . . .”

How did they ‘lose’ these ‘partners’?

First, how did they “lose” these “partners”? At a busy shopping mall? If they died, why not say so? Seems a relevant — if tragic — piece of informatio­n, especially given the subject. If they didn’t die, what happened in their prior relationsh­ips seems irrelevant. Euphemisms have no place in serious journalist­ic publicatio­ns.

Second, were their “previous partners” in fact previous spouses? If so, why not say so? There is a meaningful legal and, to some, religious distinctio­n between being married and being something else. Since when does The Post purposeful­ly make marital status not only murky but inaccurate?

These were but five words in one of the least important news stories of the day. But the lesson it teaches is critically important: Words matter, clarity matters, and accuracy matters. In journalism today — and society — there is no more important lesson.

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