Why Simon Cowell is so right to ban "the journey"

By Roz Morris, Managing Director, TV News London Ltd

Yessssssss!!!!!!  I'm so happy.  Simon Cowell has taken a great positive cultural  step.  He has banned X Factor contestants from talking about their "journey".   How I have longed for this day. 

The "journey"  has been around as part of creeping (and creepy) therapy speak by media interviewees for a couple of years now.   It sounds so self-absorbed and self important.   It started with celebs and then it really took off in the Olympics last year, when there didn't seem to be a single athlete interviewed that didn't talk about their "journey".

Rowers, runners, cyclists, swimmers, paralympians, even Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, are all serial offenders.  Before the 2012 Olympics Ennis talked about her then fiancé Andy Hill (now her husband) as being "brilliant every step of the way. We've been together a long time and we've been on this massive journey."   Since she won her Olympic medal, there have been lots and lots of journeys in her interviews.

As Simon Cowell has noticed, the trend set by the celebs and the athletes has been enthusiastically followed by X Factor contestants, eager to woo our audience votes by bleating about how tough their "journey" has been.

Cowell says he  has banned the words "journey" and "dream" from X Factor because: "I hate people saying they are "on a journey" because you're not going on a journey. You're on a talent show."

To which I say - Hear, hear and three cheers for Simon Cowell.   As a media trainer I've been advising people for a couple of years against saying they've been on a long/tough/real/ interesting/emotional  "journey". Or even the simpler "It's been a journey".

Why do I hate "the journey" so much? Because it's always comes across as so phony and so false and also because it's  ultimately self-defeating being so over-used.   Sometimes even a phrase or a word  that originally had some merit e.g. "Our hearts  go out to ..." or "I'm quitting to spend more time with my family"  or " This is iconic......" become debased coinage and a real cliché when they've been used too much.

We the public just think- Oh here we go again - and now the "journey" is definitely in that category. So -  even if the person speaking has an interesting and/or heartbreaking  story to tell - the journey has become so over-used it's now meaningless.  As I pointed out earlier this year on my TV News London blog  '10 Things NOT to say in 2013'  there are some words and phrases which are like junk food. They have little or no nutritional value.  

The "journey" can also have hidden traps bringing PR disaster for spokespeople.  After the Paddington rail crash in 1999 when 4 people died and many more were seriously injured, the Chief Executive of Railtrack made things a lot worse for his company when, while trying to be sympathetic to victims, he said the that the pursuit of rail  safety was " a journey which has no end".  This was not seen as appropriate by relatives of the dead who had just been on a train journey that had actually ended,  but not as it should have.

As Blackadder might put it.  "Baldrick - your " journey" is as phony as a statement by a phony student studying a PhD in Phoniness under the Professor of Phoniness at Oxford University."

Of course the celebs are still at it.  Americans excel at this sort of stuff.  Jennifer Lopez has just been talking to Cosmopolitan Magazine about her boyfriend and back-up dancer Casper Smart.   Jennifer and Casper have been together a truly showbiz recordbreakingly long time - like (as the kids say) 2 years!  She's 44. He's 26.  Many said their relationship wouldn't last.  But now the gossip is - will Jennifer walk down the aisle for a 4th time?

'For me, it's about having a great partner to walk this life with. " Jennifer states in an interview with the magazine. 'I bring a lot to the table. I'm not talking about material things but what I have to offer as a person - love and loyalty and all the things that make a good relationship.' 

Wow. This is really good stuff.  She's been married three times already so clearly she's still working on all the above!  (The reality not the Grade A celeb quotes.)  This is brilliant degree level phoniness which should be an inspiration to X Factor hopefuls and show them how very much further they have to go than just "the journey".

 



Published 09 September 2013