“All Eyes Are On…”: Broadcast Writing Clich�
Do you ever get eye strain? One minute, newscasters report all eyes are looking somewhere, the next minute they have all eyes looking elsewhere.
CNN, 7 a.m., May 4: "All eyes are focused on tonight's blockbuster exposé [of 'American Idol']." But two hours before the sexposé was broadcast, an anchor on CNN's Headline News said: "Now all eyes on the Jackson defense team."
A few days earlier, all eyes were on the impending arrival in Atlanta of the runaway bride: "We have got all eyes on that..." (Fox News Channel, 9 p.m., April 30).
CNN saw eye-to-eye with Fox: "All eyes have been on the eyes of the runaway bride." (CNN, 7 a.m., May 6.)
The latest outbreak of all eyes started late last year: "All eyes will be on the president as he enters his second term in office." (CBS News, 7 a.m., Dec. 28). The eyes of Texas were already upon him, as the song goes, all the livelong day.
But at night, at least on Inaugural night, "All of the eyes were on First Lady Laura Bush..." (ABC News, 7 a.m., Jan. 21.)
A week later, "While all eyes are on Iraq, elsewhere in this region there is..." (NBC News, 6:30 p.m., Jan. 29.)
A month later, "All eyes on Rome this morning." (CNN, 7 a.m., Feb. 25.)
Soon, "Tonight in Washington state, all eyes are on the skies above a landmark after a rather wild show last night, courtesy of Mount Saint Helens." (NBC News, 6:30 p.m., March 9.)
Then eyes shifted: "All eyes now are on the U.S. Supreme Court." (MSNBC, 10 p.m., March 23.)
Three weeks later: "All eyes are on the Charleston, South Carolina, courthouse..." (CBS News, 7 a.m., April 15.)
But the eyes didn't linger. Three days later, they took the long view: "All eyes around the world are focused on Saint Peter's Square." (ABC News, 11:50 a.m., April 19.)
Then the eyes started roving: "All eyes are on the biggest oil producer in the world, Saudi Arabia." (CNBC, 8 p.m., April 21.)
Again, the eyes started wandering: "On Wall Street, all eyes are on the New York Stock Exchange." (NPR, various times, April 26.)
And that evening: "Now all eyes are on my guest." (CNBC, 5 p.m., April 26.) Isn't that called exaggerated self-reference?
Last week, eyes took a new turn: "Polls in Great Britain closing at this moment, and all eyes on two-term Prime Minister Tony Blair." (Fox News Channel, 5 p.m., May 5.) Where verbs? Gone missing. Wouldn't people interested in the election results have their eyes on the count, not on a candidate?
By the end of the week, another swiveling of eyeballs: "As the defense gets under way in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial, all eyes are on child star Macaulay Culkin." (Fox News Channel, 9:30 p.m., May 7.) If all eyes are on him, who's keeping an eye on the runaway bride?
All eyes that have read this far see that all eyes is a threadbare cliché. Worse, it's nonsense.
Writers rely on all eyes when they don't have the time or can't take the time to write a solid, sensible script. Or don't know how. But now that writers have been put on notice, let's see whether the culprits reform. I'll be all ears.
Mervin Block, a newswriting coach, is the author of "Writing Broadcast News -- Shorter, Sharper Stronger." His tips and articles are at http://www.mervinblock.com. You can reach him (or sign up for his free tips list) at email@example.com.