March 28 2011

I come from a very plain spoken world. This Just In. We Go Live. Only Time Will Tell. (An unfortunate aphorism used, overused, and mercifully discarded by most TV news people.) The emphasis in broadcast news is on keeping it simple and we all go about in a rather blustery way to make that happen – hollering re-writes, rushing from edit suite to control room, gathering spontaneously in hallways to talk about the work, what’s happening in the world, that sort of thing. It’s an exhilarating – but basically blunt and scrappy environment.

So the first time I was asked to provide an “agenda” for a meeting I did a spit take. Chapter Two of life brings me not only to the world of voiceover but a corporate directorship as well. I LOVE it. But it really does feel like Mars. Agendas. Action items. Deliverables. When I was asked for the “timeline of deliverables” involved in a particular project, I had to stifle a scream.

Now…let’s just consider that word a minute. Deliverables. C’mon, say it with me. Out loud. DELIVERABLES. I mean, don’t you just feel more important when you utter that word? Whoever’s asking for DELIVERABLES must be large and in charges, yes? And insisting on a TIMELINE OF DELIVERABLES — well, that alone just hoisted you two rungs further up the corporate ladder.

I’m not sure why I’m making such a fuss about it. Except I just think deliverables is so…pretentious, and puffed up. It’s the verbal equivalent of the yellow power tie – uttered only for appearance. Because let’s be honest, you could just as easily say, LET’S REVIEW WHAT I’M PAYING YOU TO MAKE FOR ME AND WHEN I’M GOING TO GET IT. But that wouldn’t sound nearly as important, would it??? (A close friend who is a Vice President in the corporate media world insists the term deliverables has a very discrete meaning. She’s not pretentious but says she uses it all the time. When I ask her to tell me what she means when she says deliverables she ends up describing what she’s paying someone to make for her and when she’s going to get it. I just had to sigh.)

It’s not that I’m anti intellectual. (I did use the word aphorism at the top, remember?) I was an English major. I love words, love the sound of them, the feel of them on the tongue, love what they can do to bring understanding, meaning, and value to the world.

And it’s not that I don’t appreciate brevity. It is king in the broadcast news world. (Along with, well, hype.) But let’s be honest: no one who uses deliverables in a sentence is doing so to be brief.

What I’ve finally figured out is that upon reflection: I’m definitely anti puff.