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The Doctor in the Newsroom

Robert C. McGiffert
JAMA. 1966;196(1):72-74. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100140126034.
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Fortunately, people like John Hersey and Truman Capote have not tried to write articles for so-called learned or professional journals. Authors writing for such journals need a special kind of gamesmanship, and Hersey and Capote just don't have it. Neither did Winston Churchill.

The rules of journal composition are few but they are rigidly enforced. The first is the rule of elongation. It demands that the simple thought be expressed in complex terms. Under this rule, an educator describes a conversation as "an interpersonal oral communication," a psychologist refers to dislike as "a negative affective response," a communications theorist calls a club "a social organization in which people cooperate to accomplish specific goals," a surgeon speaks of an operation as "surgical intervention."

The second rule is to put first things last. Under this rule, the results of an investigation are kept secret as long as possible. By reviewing the literature,


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