Historic? One for the record books? Hype? Or we just don’t know what to say?

Can some one explain to me the use of the word “HISTORIC” being flaunted by the media to describe today’s meeting between Mrs. Michelle Obama and Nelson Mandela?

Why is it historic? She isn’t a head of state… she isn’t conducting bilateral talks… there are no negotiations between our countries – at least none that is revealed to date.

Is it important? i suppose yes…. certainly to her and her daughters… but to the rest of us?

Why does the news media use the word historic to describe what was a brief and in diplomatic terms nothing more than a courtesy meeting?

In the scope of time, or the Obama presidency, in terms of international relations between South Africa and the United States this will hardly be termed ‘historic’. So why does the media use the word, as if to credit her with something more significant than what it really was?

Am I missing something? (And no – this isn’t about race, black leaders or women’s rights…), this is just an observation about the word choice used by networks and local stations to categorize an event – or characterize it? Maybe both.

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

One thought on “Historic? One for the record books? Hype? Or we just don’t know what to say?”

  1. It’s an epidemic. Very common in TV and politics to throw around the word (or variation of) “historic”. I have always wonder how a President signing a bill can be said to be “changing history”. Or an event being “history changing”. Makes no sense to me.

    Of course there are history revisionists. But one group of people use this as a negative term. The fact is that history is history. No one can change it. What can be changed is what is accepted as fact and reality.

    If someone says Regean was a great President who did not raise taxes, they have become the revisionists. But they will use that term to describe those that accurately point out that Regean raised taxes higher than any President in history, past and present.

    People seem not to have an understanding of what history is and how to relate important events to the public.

    September 11th was history making. Obama authorizing air strikes against Libya is not, since we are already have major military actions taking place in the Middle East.

    Now, even in printed media we have the same problem. Recently there was an article about a reporter “discovering” the first McDonald’s commercial using Ronald McDonald. It was called an “historic discovery”. The problem is that the commercial has been on YouTube for years. There’s a copy of it in the video archive I manage.

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