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Column: Word choice wasn’t the best in soccer report

Selecting the right or wrong word can make or break a story. Journalists know this and we strive to choose the best ones — to make a point, set a mood or stir the imagination.

We blew it this week in “Somerset soccer team needs field trip discretion,” published May 10, 2018.

With no intention of linking the coach’s explanation of lethargic play to teen eating disorders, the reporter began the story: “If the Somerset girls soccer team wants to remain in the hunt for the Middle Border Conference title, the team might want to avoid field trips where overeating is an option.”

Overeating was not a good word choice. The editing team should have caught it, but we fell short. Readers pointed out our mistake.

Everyone indulges from time to time — think Thanksgiving Day dinner or a trip to county fair — and knows how you might feel sluggish afterward.

But the term overeating is associated with the serious disorder called compulsive overeating. Like anorexia, bulimia and similar mental health issues, compulsive overeating is a serious medical disease.

Plenty of words cause strong reactions today that they didn’t 10, 20 or 30 years ago. While overeating may not necessarily be a trigger word for society in general, its use clearly angered some people in the story involving young women. Understandably so.

Your comments came through loud and clear. We let those comments build on the web, but then cut off them off when they potentially started adding to readers’ pain.

The New Richmond News and RiverTown Multimedia take very seriously the topic of mental health. That is why we have written numerous mental health stories in an ongoing series published over 14 months and will continue to publish more.

We regret any distress that the soccer story caused to student athletes.

We appreciate feedback on your community newspaper. You may contact me at 651-301-7870, ajacobson@rivertowns.net and always send letters to the editor to news@rivertowns.net.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

(651) 301-7870
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