Writers for the popular gossip site can no longer use Internet slang

GAWKER-1Most people who frequent gossip sites expect to see the use of common Internet slang riddled throughout the coverage. News providers who specialize in gossip such as TMZ and Perez Hilton often include some LOL'ing, and other slang terms that readers of these websites expect as a part of the info they provide. After all, what would a Kardashian story be without the discussion of Kim's "booty"?

But OMG!

Popular gossip website Gawker, known for its coverage of celebrity gossip and general mockery, announced this month that the use of Internet slang will no longer be allowed in their coverage. Including the above slangs LOL (as in "laugh out loud"), OMG (otherwise known as "oh my god") and other Internet related terms such as WTF. Even words like "epic" are to not be used.

It's understandable that new Gawker editor Max Read wants to eliminate the use of acronymic Internet slang in an attempt to seem more professional; but even "massive" is another word now banned.

Initial coverage of this announcement by Andrew Beaujon on media industry website Poynter.com, quoted from a memo which Read wrote to his staff saying, "We want to sound like regular adult human beings."

Throughout the day, one will often hear conversations with the odd social media slang thrown into actual dialogue, but those individuals aren't necessarily condemned for their choice of Internet terms and certainly aren't banned from using them.

Banning Internet slang could be a step forward in achieving a more serious approach to gossip, but does the word "massive" fall under the same category as others on the banned list, for example FTW ("for the win") and "amazeballs" (what ever that means)?

Although "massive" has an explicit definition in various dictionaries, the meaning of many common Internet slang terms have to be found through alternative, pop-culture dictionaries such as Urban Dictionary.

Through conducting a general search of the word "massive" on the New York Times, the Calgary Herald, CBC News, and the Globe and Mail, all news organizations registered hundreds, if not thousands of results including this term.

In the CBC News search, the first eight results had "massive" in the headline of various articles. Upon reading the word massive in a news article, I wouldn't discredit the news organization's professionalism in any way, as I might if LOL were to be used.

This being said, there were a couple cases where organizations such as CBC News and the Calgary Herald have included the text-friendly acronyms now banned on Gawker, but they appear only in articles dealing with pop-culture and celebrities.

GAWKERGawker readers can no longer expect to “LOL” over Internet slang terms.
Photo by: Allison Badger

Guest writer Sal Glynn wrote about slang for the popular Grammar Girl website, saying, it "can be a disaster in writing." Glynn explains that slang is more appropriate for conversation, rather than in news. Although "Grammar Girl" herself (author Mignon Fogarty) would seem to be in agreement with Read's decision to ban text-message related-slang, I doubt she would be as supportive of not allowing proper words like "massive" and "epic."

The attempt to professionalize Gawker through the elimination of specific terms may not have the impact Read was hoping for.

Among the many synonyms for "massive" suggested in Read's memo to Gawker writers is "Brobdingnagian." Does honking or whopping sound more polished?

Perhaps Gawker has gone too far.

Readers of Gawker and other gossip news outlets are familiar with most Internet slang and popular acronyms, but may not be as quick to catch onto new terms like the wordy synonyms above.

David Hyttenrauch, chair of Mount Royal University's English department, explains in an email how writing correctly is usually ideal for a professional context or audience.

"On the other hand, some elements of correctness are debatable; language evolves in relation to the communities that use it; and there are always groups that express their identity and sense of belonging through a dialect or even a specialist vocabulary," Hyttenrauch says.

As Gawker proclaims on its website, "today's gossip is tomorrow's news." If this is true shouldn't the gossip site take a more casual approach to its stories and leave the other news organizations to take a more professional spin to the language? Or perhaps editor Read is hoping to eliminate the need for coverage by other news media by writing more professionally? Maybe Read is attempting to be something more than an "irreverent gossipy site," as stated by Pew Research.

If Gawker wants its writers to be seen as "regular adult human beings," as Read put it in his memo, maybe it should focus on sophisticating the coverage, not only the language.

Calgary Journal reporter Allison Badger is exploring media ethics as part of the Bachelor of Communication-Journalism degree at Mount Royal University.

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Does the use of Internet slang terms lessen the professionalism of a gossip website?

 

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