“Accident”? “Crash”? “Collision”?
The Oregonian’s director of news says the newspaper’s unofficial practice has been, for years, to avoid “accident” in the absence of information because that word suggests that a traffic incident was unpreventable.
But the copy desk chief says the opposite: his preference is to go with “accident” in the absence of information because he feels “crash” and “collision” are favored by “activists” and the newspaper needs to remain neutral.
Reporters, meanwhile, don’t seem to be sure what to do. Last week, a business reporter was taking her turn on a weekend cops shift when an allegedly drunk driver killed a 17-year-old; her report described this as a “bike accident.” After a local lawyer emailed her to suggest different phrasing, she first described the word choice as “fine” based on the advice of one editor, then later apologized based on the advice of a different editor.