[UPDATED] Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor: Enough already with ‘iconic’!

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel managing editor George Stanley sent this note to his staff last night. He chooses not to give “iconic” examples, but I found a few via Google. (I see that a story about Princess Diana’s “iconic” dresses appeared in yesterday’s Journal Sentinel.)

George Stanley
to Newsroom


It has been brought to my attention that we are seriously over-using the word “iconic.”

I could provide examples but would rather not.

It’s not a bad word but it is becoming a cliche. Let’s try not to use it unless it is truly the best possible word for that sentence.

Thank you!

In my February 2012 post on “words journalists use but people never say,” Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch mentioned iconic and added: “which I use in almost every story i write!” Radio talker Tavis Smiley apparently used the word all the time, too – until a listener called him out on it.

UPDATE: Baltimore Sun’s John McIntyre writes: “I’m tempted to send a mash note to George Stanley.”

He notes: “Iconic is like legendary, dramatic, prestigious, and the other empty adjectives that are no more than upholstery. It’s not only the writers of features sections who go into for this, though they are prime repeat offenders, but any writer trying to puff up the importance of a story by telling rather than showing will be prone to resort to such words.”

UPDATE 2: Milwaukee Magazine says its search of “iconic” on the Journal Sentinel website turned up 29 stories, blog posts and photo gallery descriptions posted in the past seven days.

* Words journalists use but people never say (jimromenesko.com)
* Read what my Facebook friends/subscribers say about Stanley’s memo (facebook.com)