Jose Carillo's English Forum

Joe Carillo's Desk => My Media English Watch => Topic started by: Joe Carillo on April 29, 2017, 08:47:16 AM



Title: Frenzied arrival reporting, this time for the ASEAN Summit dignitaries
Post by: Joe Carillo on April 29, 2017, 08:47:16 AM
Let me say first why I was tempted today to repost this Media English Watch essay of mine on November 21, 2015 on the news headlines about the APEC Summit arrivals that year. It is to provide context to my amused disappointment over the news headlines yesterday and today in a major Manila broadsheet about the ASEAN Summit arrivals in Manila. Indeed, in how many ways can a newspaper describe the arrival of foreign heads of state and other dignitaries without overly taxing the patience or offending the language sensibilities of its readers? Take a look at how the online edition of that particular newspaper lumped under the heading “LATEST HEADLINES” four of its arrival stories, then gave them the following individual headlines (italicizations for emphasis mine):
 
“Vietnam PM reaches Manila for ASEAN Summit”
“Widodo lands in Manila for state visit, ASEAN”
“Myanmar's Suu Kyi arrives in Manila for ASEAN Summit”
“Thailand prime minister returns to Manila for ASEAN”

(http://josecarilloforum.com/imgs/arrival_ASEANSummit-image-4.jpg) (http://josecarilloforum.com/imgs/arrival_ASEANSummit-image-1.jpg)
(http://josecarilloforum.com/imgs/arrival_ASEANSummit-image-3.jpg) (http://josecarilloforum.com/imgs/arrival_ASEANSummit-image-2.jpg)

I do think that there's a better and more elegant way to phrase and present such repetitive headlines so as not to rile the readers, as I suggested in my 2015 essay below in the case of the APEC Summit. (April 29, 2017)

Frenzied arrival reporting for the APEC dignitaries (http://josecarilloforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=6556.0)

The multiple arrivals of 20 heads of state for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this week not only locked down traffic in Metro Manila to almost zero but also appear to have taxed to the hilt the English writing skills of the print and online media.

This was particularly evident in how the online edition of a major Metro Manila broadsheet headlined its homepage arrival reports. It did use the verb “arrive” for its umbrella headline for all of them, “World leaders start arriving for APEC,” and also for the headline “US Navy destroyer arrives ahead of Obama visit” and that for the arrival of the President Barack Obama himself, “Obama arrives in Manila for APEC.”

But clearly taking pains not to use “arrive” any further, that broadsheet came up with these peculiar variations of that verb for three other headlines (italicizations mine):

“Chinese President Xi Jinping sets foot in Manila for APEC”
“Mexican president touches down in Manila for state visit, APEC”
“New Zealand PM reaches Manila for APEC meeting”

I won’t go into the reporting protocol aspects of why some foreign leaders deserve only plain arrivals and others more eye-catching figurative arrivals. Instead, I will just examine the semantic aspects of those three headlines.

The phrasal verb “set foot in” in the first headline above means “to enter,” strongly conveying the sense that someone on foot went through a certain boundary to the point of arrival. This obviously didn’t apply in the case of President Xi Jinping, who was flown to Manila by a Chinese government jet.

As to the phrasal verb “touch down” in the second headline, its sense is “to reach the ground” or “to land.” This strongly implies that the one arriving piloted the plane himself. This, too, obviously didn’t apply in the case of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who came on board a Mexican Airforce plane.

But of the three headlines, “New Zealand PM reaches Manila for APEC meeting” has the most seriously flawed semantics. The verb “reaches” strongly implies that PM John Key had a hard time making it to Manila; he could have come in late or not at all. But in fact, no such thing was reported to have happened on his way to the APEC summit.

Those three semantically faulty headlines obviously came about because of the notion that repeatedly using the verb “arrive” for each of the arriving dignitaries would be a cardinal offense against good journalistic writing. Well, that notion is wrongheaded in this case. With 20 arriving dignitaries involved, there was really no way to come up with 19 different phrasal verbs or synonyms for the verb “arrive” without making the headlines sound facetious or even ridiculous.

This is why the print and online editions of two other Metro Manila broadsheets (including The Manila Times, I’m glad) sensibly bit the bullet and used “arrive” for all the arriving dignitaries in this wise: “Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in PH for Apec,” “Mexican President Nieto arrives for Apec, state visit,” and “New Zealand’s PM John Key arrives in PH for Apec.” And as far as I can gather, they also used “arrive”—with no hint of equivocation or guilt—for the rest of the arriving foreign leaders.

I have one suggestion to Philippine media though. The next time the country hosts an  event like the APEC, their editors should just put up in their front or home pages a boxed section simply headlined “ARRIVALS FOR (EVENT).” The individual stories under it can consist simply of the name and designation of the foreign head of state and the details of the arrival. That’s all.

This should nicely do away with wracking brains looking for alternatives for the verb “arrive” and avoid inadvertent breaches of reporting protocol for the heads of state.

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, November 21, 2015 issue © 2015 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.