Let's Keep The 'Gate' Closed : Memmos Not every potential scandal needs to be labeled a "gate" right from the start. We should resist the temptation.
NPR logo Let's Keep The 'Gate' Closed

Let's Keep The 'Gate' Closed

Listening and reading from home the past few days, it was good to hear and see that we've treated mentions of "Spygate" as they should be — sparingly, in quotes and with attribution. We've made clear that it's a label being used by one side to try to frame a debate.

There are, of course, other reasons to resist simply starting to call something a "gate."

First, it's a cliché. We fight clichés like there's no tomorrow.

Second, as media columnist Rem Rieder put it, when the media tack "gate" on to a word it can come off as "lazy ... so predictable ... and really, really annoying."

Third, to paraphrase the late Lloyd Bentsen, we knew Watergate, Watergate was a real scandal, this one (or the next one) may or may not turn out to be another Watergate. We don't know yet. Let's not elevate something to "gate" status without very good reasons.

This guidance doesn't rule out some usages. "Deflategate" was, arguably, a word that let some air out of an over-inflated story.

But, we shouldn't try to pump up other ongoing stories by joining the rush to attach "gate" to their names.