The New York Times has been caught going passive on its scoop news story about Hillary Clinton’s email.
According to NewsDiff, the original hed read: “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Clinton’s Use of Email,” but an hour later the hed was changed to: “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Use.” The hed now reads: “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account.”
Perhaps the editors of the Times should read their own columnists. In 2012 Times opinion writer Constance Hale penned a piece under the headline: “The Pleasures and Perils of the Passive.”
The most pilloried use of the passive voice might be that famous expression of presidents and press secretaries, “mistakes were made.” From Ronald Ziegler, President Richard M. Nixon’s press aide, through Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — not to mention Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — pols have used the passive voice to spin the news, avoid responsibility or hide the truth. One political guru even dubbed this usage “the past exonerative.”