“is dead” isn’t dead, but needs to die

All these living things have been declared dead…

… and then some. Look up any subject with “is dead” as its direct object and there’s a good chance somebody will have said exactly that. It’s one of the most overworked clichés in all of journalism (if that’s still alive enough to use as a label). Let’s move on.


  1. Julian Bond’s avatar

    So does a whole series of adjective hyphen genre-name. I never want to see post- neo- new- nu- future- ultra- extreme- again. And that’s the short list!

  2. Joseph Ratliff’s avatar

    Amen to the 100th power Doc… death to all of the “is dead” headlines.

    When I work with clients who ask about using one of these headlines to “get attention” I always ask them one question:

    “Do you want to get this attention and keep it, or just get the attention in the first place?”

    At what expense are folks using these headlines using them? At their own expense, because any one of these that I read… their “attention stock value” goes down quite a bit.

    (attention stock value = the amount of attention I will give them next time I consider reading their piece, the higher, the more consideration)

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    There are so many others. “…on steroids” for example.

    BTW, I always want to give a bit of ease to writers for major pubs, since they often aren’t the headline writers. Just saying

  4. Patrick’s avatar

    This is both true, and not true. It really depends on when it is stated, and what the intended result of the communication is. The first time I heard someone state Film is dead it was sensationalized pimping of the first version of “high definition” television, which wasn’t even digital.
    Over the years, the phrase has been brought out to point at any number of products, yet today we still call an all digital produced and distributed motion picture a film.
    The times it has been relevant were almost all when it was applied to analysis of financial or business related data. When Kodak had to start addressing when it would reduce production, it was incredibly relevant and appropriate to the lab workers around the world whose enterprises got their countdown clocks set by how many feet would be processed in the coming years.
    So yes, “is dead” is a ripe old corpse itself, yet there are plenty of situations where I can imagine it being effective shorthand. Like most well used bits of culture, it takes skill and craft to make good use of it, and we shouldn’t expect there to be widespread application of those since the demand for quality isn’t all that high.

  5. alan herrell’s avatar

    Disguising motion as activity is almost as old as prostitution just not as honest.

    The problem with the internet ‘is dead’ meme is the first responder magpies (which in the overwhelming number of recent cases are the Social Media/PR Whores, banging the web to sell some sort of ‘relevant’) who see something shiny and to show how bright they are and how pretty they feel declare something else ‘dead’ . Then come the lemmings chasing it off the cliff.
    None of this shit every truly dies on the web, it just gets layered over.

  6. Jeff Stevens’s avatar

    The sad truth is that I don’t think any of these sensationalist headlines are going to stop until human nature changes. As long as readers respond by paying more attention to this sort of over the top writing then writers will keep doing it.

    While most journalists start with the ambition to do great work life has a way of wearing down that adventurous spirit.

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