The ongoing use of 'spokesperson' is bad news for BBC journalism style guide cops - Press Gazette

The ongoing use of 'spokesperson' is bad news for BBC journalism style guide cops

"Fleet Street" is merely a geographical location and is an outdated term for the national newspaper press. "Spokesperson" is an "ugly" word. 'Press conference' is "too narrow a term and might exclude some categories of a journalist" and should read "news conference".

This was some of the guidance issued in the BBC's style guide published last summer.

Here, Press Gazette looks at some of the terms outlawed by the corporation's guide last summer and discovers whether they are still in use.

Fleet Street: Despite being judged to be "no longer a useful synonym for the print media”, this term to desbribe the national print press is still in use. It was last published last week in a report on Neil Wallis and Jules Stenson's phone-hacking court appearance.

Blast and slam were judged acceptable to use sparingly – and this appears to be the case, with both words used in the journalese sense once or twice over the past month.

Bonk, cops, fags, ongoing and upcoming were best avoided altogether, according to the guide. A search on the BBC website shows that while the first three are rarely used, ongoing and upcoming make regular appearances.

Spokesperson was judged to be "ugly" by the style guide. It said: “Spokesman and spokeswoman are possible alternatives. Where it is not obvious, consider rephrasing the sentence – eg: The company said… or A company statement said… or A company representative said… etc.” A search reveals that the term has been used in ten stories over the past 24 hours.

Press conference is still regularly used on the BBC website, but news conference is used a little more.

Good news and bad news are other banned terms. “For example, a cut in interest rates must not be characterised as ‘good news on interest rates’ – since, while mortgage holders will be pleased, savers certainly will not be. So the term is acceptable only with a qualification (eg: There is good news for house buyers). The safest approach is simply to say what has happened – and let the reader decide whether it constitutes good news or bad.” Aside from in blogs, the good news for the BBC style guide writers is that journalists largely avoid these terms.

Here is a link to the BBC style guide and some others:

Press Gazette

The Guardian

The Economist


Associated Press

The Telegraph

Financial Times Lexicon



Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.