From Thirty Years (the expanded edition, published in 1978), by Lincoln Kirstein:
The temptation of journalism is always to say something for the way words sound, rather than analyzing what actually happens.
The book recounts the background, founding, and progress of the New York City Ballet. If you’re unacquainted with it, see my entry at Goodreads for a short account. In the paragraph in which that line occurs, Kirstein is talking about critics, mainly those in dailies and weeklies. But he was the kind of careful writer who always said what he meant, and he was an acute observer. The remark I’ve quoted is possibly the most trenchant assessment of journalism as a whole that I’ve ever seen.
I notice that, in saying so, I’ve fallen prey to the syndrome that Kirstein diagnoses. Let me correct myself and say this instead: Kirstein’s comment on journalism struck me as true when I read it, in 2004, and it still does. I see the problem frequently in my work as a copy editor and also in my reading. The influence of marketing is detectable here. Our words must sell themselves, we believe, and everybody now wants to say something that sounds big, bold, appealing, memorable. This presents a challenge for critics and other writers. If you can’t make, or don’t choose to make, fine distinctions in the way you present something, readers are apt to get the wrong impression. If we misunderstand the world, isn’t it in part because, when we talk about it, we keep pumping up the volume? We aren’t TV cooks; not everything needs to be kicked up a notch.