Paul Janensch: Picking Person, Quote, etc. of 2017

January 3, 2018 GMT

Let’s consider the news media’s Person, Quote, Lie, Word and Error of 2017. See if you agree with these choices.

For Person of the Year, Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” — those who went public with their stories of being victims of sexual assault and harassment by powerful men in government, entertainment, journalism, sports and other fields.

On Time’s cover five women face the camera. They include actress Ashley Judd and singer Taylor Swift.

Millions of others followed the example set by high-profile accusers and posted their own accounts of sexual aggression on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

For Quote of the Year, Fred Shapiro, associate director of the Yale Law School library, picked a statement by White House advisor Kellyanne Conway that contained the term “alternative facts.”

After Trump was sworn in as president, Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.”

But photos and video showed that more people attended Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

When Conway was asked about this on NBC, she said, “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

For Lie of the Year, PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking service, picked President Trump’s repeated denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.

He said “this Russia thing” is “a made-up story,” “a hoax,” and a Democratic “excuse” for losing the presidential race.

PolitiFact said, “The evidence that Russia interfered in the election is plentiful and demonstrates an elaborate and sophisticated scheme.”

For Word of the Year, Merriam-Webster picked “feminism,” the movement that advocates equal rights for women. It was looked up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary by millions interested in the Women’s March in Washington and other subjects with women’s themes.

My pick for Word of the Year is “collusion,” which means secretly cooperating in an illegal or fraudulent scheme. It came up frequently in reference to contacts between Russians and members of the Trump team.

Democrats and liberal pundits accused the two of “collusion” to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump frequently asserted, “There was no collusion.”

The word comes from the Latin “colludere,” which means “to play together.”

For Error of the Year, I pick the bombshell report by ABC News’s Brian Ross.

On December 1, he said Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, was prepared to testify that before the election Trump told him to initiate contact with Russian officials. That would have seemed to show collusion to influence the result.

Later that day, ABC corrected the Ross report to say Trump issued the directive after he won.

Ross was suspended by ABC for four weeks and told he will no longer cover stories involving Trump.

Trump supporters called the erroneous report another example of “fake news.” Journalists said that at least ABC corrected the error.

Paul Janensch, of Bridgeport, was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University. E-mail: paul.janensch@quinnipiac.edu.