I'm writing this blog post on the ground here in my house in rural south Salem, Oregon. Does me saying "on the ground" add anything to that sentence?
No. Leaving it out takes nothing away that needs saying. "I'm writing this blog post here in my house in rural south Salem, Oregon" is completely accurate all by itself.
I've noticed that on the ground is being used much more frequently in news shows. And mostly for no reason.
"We turn now to David Fleming reporting on the ground from Afghanistan" would only make sense if Fleming sometimes broadcast his segment while hovering in the air or buried in the earth.
Otherwise, it's obvious that he's on the ground. Where else would he be?
Take out the on the ground and we know all that's needed: Fleming is reporting from Afghanistan. Adding in that phrase seems intended to denote a sense that the reporter is right in the thick of something important, the original meaning of "on the ground."
But today I heard a MSNBC anchor say something like this to a guest: "Tell us what it's like to be on the ground of a contentious school board meeting these days."
I can accept using that phrase in a sentence such as "We're going live to our reporter embedded on the ground with a Marine force engaged in a firefight on the Pakistan border." Even here, on the ground doesn't add any information, but it conveys a sense of dangerous on-the-spot immediacy.
Whereas a school administrator relating how school board meetings are going when anti-mask parents show up doesn't deserve an on the ground.
I'm hoping that the inappropriate use of those words has hit a peak and will soon decline. This isn't a major problem like global warming. It just irks me.
Pleasingly, some Googling turned up others who found the phrase unnecessary for the same reasons I did.
The Community Writing Center in Salt Lake City
“on the ground”—Particularly overused in news reporting, this phrase conveys no additional information.
The Manila Times
I’d like to share with readers this rather provocative e-mail from business columnist Oscar P. Lagman, Jr., asking me to comment on the frequent use nowadays of the phrase “on the ground” by personalities in the news. He thinks that their overuse of the idiom is “inappropriate,” saying that it reminds him of my oft-said comment in my columns that “at the end of the day” is annoyingly overused by media and government officials.
Q: I’ve had my fill of the new and irritatingly ubiquitous expression “on the ground” in sentences like this: “Let’s speak about the state of charity work on the ground in Africa.” What possible meaning would be lost if “on the ground” were left out? My guess is that this phrase is of military origin, but now every pundit and reporter who wants to sound hip and savvy uses it.
A: I agree that “on the ground” is an empty, unnecessary phrase in a sentence like the one you’ve given. It’s more of a verbal tic than a meaningful usage.