Reaching Out (ewww!)

There’s another public radio linguistic tic that’s spreading faster than Lindsay Lohan at an Italian waiter convention!

It is the phrase “reaching out,” used to mean contact, appeal to, please, solicit, as in “Mitt Romney is not yet reaching out to the all-important gay animal tamer vote.”

The phrase “Reaching out” isn’t new, but its frequency is suddenly off the charts with the intense (albeit superficial) campaign coverage of the last few months. Listening to recent reports might convince you the presidential candidates had mutated into thousand-armed Hindu deities.

Take Day To Day’s two-way between reporter Anthony Brooks and Republican strategist Dan Schnur today. Here’s a highlight:

Schnur: “…it gives him the party’s leading conservative spokespersons from the president on down to help him reach out to the party’s conservative base and try to motivate them toward a fall election.”

To which Brooks responds: “And what does he have to do though to really reach out and convince them…”

And what about all the unintended nasty overtones of the phrase “reaching out?” Some scuzzy guy going for a grope on the subway. Zombies’ rotting hands emerging from their graves. Fill in your own.

I imagine AT&T still regrets being associated with the slogan “reach out and touch someone.” They may be the “new” AT&T now, but I’ll bet they’re still listed in the Meghan’s law database.

Of course the habit is not limited to public radio. A quick google of “clinton” and the phrase “reaching out” generates almost a million hits. But one of the themes of this blog is that public media, to demonstrate why it matters and deserves listeners’ donations, must rise above the rest of the silly fish-wrap* manufacturers.

So, if you are a public radio host or a campaign reporter, think about reaching out to a thesaurus in the very near future.

* I adore the phrase “fish-wrap.” I love nothing more than referring to the New York Times as “the fish-wrap of record.” (c)(tm)2008 Airbag Moments.

But finger-staining news is inexorably evaporating into carpal- tunnel- inducing news, so we need a digital version of this perfect put-down.

Reader(s): Please suggest a replacement for “fish-wrap” that will take us into the 21st century!

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