Journalism school teaches many things about identifying news, reporting news and writing news, but the most important lesson — usually not a part of the journalist’s curriculum — is to know that the customer, in this instance the reader, is always right even when they are wrong.
The caller who questioned the reporter’s use of the past tense verb “pleaded” can reference the Associated Press Stylebook for correct usage in news writing: “Plead, pleaded, pleading; Do not use the colloquial past tense form, pled.”
However, a quick check with The American Heritage Dictionary reveals “pleaded” and “pled” are in fact acceptable past tense uses of the verb plead in everyday conversation and other forms of writing. That means you can say he pled, you can write he pled, but he pleaded in the newspaper.
So, our plea to your charge is this: We plead not guilty on having pleaded innocent.
(Again reference the American Heritage Dictionary: “In strict legal usage, one is said to plead guilty or plead not guilty but not to plead innocent.)
That’s right. We can’t plead innocent, but we certainly are not guilty.