How do you say that someone is getting laid without actually saying it? The WSJ has its hand with innuendo in a story last week on the friendship (oops) between CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and ousted (did it again) Citicorp executive Todd Thomson. The paper isn't exactly reporting that the couple has had adulterous sex, mind you, but..., well, here's how the Journal lays (gosh darnit) it out:
1)Thomson and Bartiromo were having dinner at the ritzy Daniel restaurant.
2)Citigroup executives advised Thomson to reduce his contact with Bartiromo.
3)Thomson flew with a group of Citigroup employees to China and left them there to make their own flight arrangements home while he flew back on the corporate jet with Bartiromo.
Slate's Jack Shafer calls it a case of a well-lawyered newspaper that distinguishes itself by the way it writes around something.
Having dumped the compost, planted the seed, and fertilized and watered the earth, the Journal leaves it to nobody's imagination what species the flowering Thomson-Bartiromo friendship, relationship, and contact is without actually coming out and writing anything that 1) they can't prove and 2) invites a libel suit. This is the sort of copy a clever lawyer directs reporters to write when they "know" something but can't prove it. Leave it to the reader to assemble the meaning of the facts in their minds, the wise libel attorney tells his clients. The Jan. 26 New York Times also walks the cow around the barn by noting that both Thomson and Bartiromo are married. Or maybe I'm reading too much into both that story and the headline to David Carr's Jan. 29 column in the Times: "Citigroup and CNBC Cozy Up."
At least Britain's Private Eye magazine accepts responsibility for its own impiety whenever it wants to imply an unprintable intimate relationship by referring to a "Ugandan discussion" or "Ugandan relations." (See the warring etymologies on Usenet and UgandanDiscussions.co.uk.)