The LA Times deletes tweets that used passive voice, as details emerged about police killing a teenage bystander (while they also killed an assault suspect)

Several journalist-involved tweet deletions occurred in connection with the Los Angeles Times.
Doesn’t that statement sound awkward?
Language like “was shot and killed by police” and “police-involved shooting” downplays the moral choices made by LEOs who aim their weapons at fellow human beings and squeeze the trigger.
If a police report states “a bullet from a police officer’s gun struck a suspect,” good journalists should notice and revise the “copspeak.” Journalists have their own jargon, too, such as using “alleged” to describe crimes that a suspect is accused of committing (because in America we are all “innocent until proven guilty.”) I’d say that also extends to avoiding biased terms like “innocent bystander.” (The heart-wrenching detail about the victim shopping for her quinceañera dress makes the point more powerfully than the vague term “innocent bystander.”)
When reporting breaking news, journalists usually have little to go on other than police reports, at least at first. If the initial police report did not mention any details about “another person” who also “died,” the fact that a suspect “was shot and killed by police” was still newsworthy. The Times did the right thing by deleting the initial tweets.
Because reports indicate the suspect was unarmed, this is not an “alleged police shooting.” The Times is reporting as fact that the officer shot and killed a girl who was shopping for her quinceañera dress.
Whether the shooting is a crime is a matter for the courts to decide.
The phrasing “alleged suspect” is also noteworthy.
This is why I care bother teaching about active and passive verbs. Grammar shapes and frames how we think, how we act, what we believe, what we know.


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