Alleged / by kevin murray

Alleged is a word that is overused, misused, and annoying to hear when repeated over and over again in regards to specific crime stories.  For instance, it's irksome to read headlines such as this from the Chicago Tribune, "Death penalty sought for alleged Boston bomber Tsarnaev".  Really?  First off, how is it possible for a death penalty to be sought for an "alleged" bomber?  Shouldn't the death penalty be specifically setup for the actual bomber?  As for alleged, how many other people are being alleged to be the bomber in this case?  If there aren't any other suspects and the evidence is overwhelming against Tsarnaev, why not call a spade a spade?


The Oxford Dictionary defines allege as follows: "claim or assert that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically without proof that this is the case."  This would strongly imply that when someone is first arrested and the evidence is just being sorted out, that it might be okay, to call the accused perpetrator, alleged.  But even in this case, the use of the word allege is rather weak, unless you feel that the police typically arrest people without rhyme or reason, in which case using the modifier, allege, may have merit.


A far more effective way to report crime information, is to state the facts as presented by the police or the prosecutor's office.  If you have something to add to these facts, you should add them, but by reporting what has been stated by the police or the prosecutor you will come up with a sentence such as "the police stated today that they have arrested the Boston marathon bomber," as opposed to saying that Tsarnaev is the alleged bomber.


Further, as the trial winds its way down through our legal system, you can then report that the accused Boston bomber is in jail, and further that the accused Boston bomber has been charged with the specific charges that the prosecutor's office has filed against him.  Presenting the news in this manner is a more straightforward, honest, and meaningful way to convey the actual news of this case to your audience, as opposed to the misguided step of adding the modifier, alleged, over and over again, which essentially mitigates a crime and the criminal that should not be mitigated whatsoever.


The additional problem of using the word alleged, inappropriately, is that this word essentially changes the world from a world of facts and falsehoods, from reality and fantasy, into a world in which the press is incapable of simply reporting the news in a manner that is sensible.   If newspapers and news reporters are so unsure about factual events, that they constantly have to modify simple statements with a world such as alleged, how is it possible to report anything that is actually news?  Ultimately, you must make a stand, perhaps sometimes despite your prudent standards your stand is incorrect or inaccurate, the facts that you have reported in good faith to the public later are shown to be incorrect, you can correct this, modify this, and apologize for this, as opposed to the endless silly loop of alleging this or alleging that.