TV News Steers Away From Violent Political Cliches, But For How Long?

By Alex Weprin Comment

On CNN Tuesday night, anchor John King took some time at the end of his show to apologize for a guest using the “c” word: “cross-hairs” during a political discussion.

“We’re trying to get away from that language,” King said.

Of course, the 7 PM timeslot that King currently occupies was once the home of the political debate show “Crossfire,” which not only has violent imagery in its name (It is “a military term for the siting of weapons so that their arcs of fire overlap,” according to Wikipedia) but ran for nearly 25 years on the news network, at one point being its top-rated program.

As The Cutline’s Michael Calderone writes, King is not alone in watching his language:

King called attention to using “cross hairs” by making that statement on air. There’s no CNN policy to avoid using the word, but King apparently wants to try doing so on his show. And King’s not the only political journalist who’s reluctant to talk of politicians being “in the cross hairs” since the Tucson rampage — others are just avoiding such phrases rather than making statements about it.

Several political journalists told The Cutline that they have recently paused before using some violent clich├ęs in political writing — whether “blasting,” “targeting,” “reloading,” “taking aim,” or coming “under fire.”

The problem, of course, is that the rhetoric is nothing new, and there is no reason to think it will not return for the 2012 Presidential election.

While many in the media may be holding their tongues now, once the campaigns get going, and the candidates start using the rhetoric themselves, it is a safe bet that anchors will let it slide. King will not be ending every single show with an apology to viewers. Once 2012 rolls around, the choice may be to do that, or just let the rhetoric slide.

What do you think? How long do you expect the media to refrain from regularly using “violent” language?