Journalists are not something that can be made safe. Pronoun ambiguity arises when there is more than one logical referent for a pronoun, causing the sentence to have two different possible, logical meanings.
I would normally agree with that, but sometimes I feel unsure if that rule above can be generalized....
consider the following SC from OG12
(spoiler alert here...):A proposal has been made to trim the horns from rhinoceroses ...; the question is whether tourists will continue to visit game parks to see rhinoceroses after THEIR horns are trimed.
obviously journalists are not something that can be made safe, but isn't it quite obvious that humans don't have horns!??! so under your rule above, the THEIR should correctly and unambigously refer to rhinos? But OG12
says that THEIR could refer to the tourists as well.
the question is where I draw the line of possibile logical referent?
A proposal has been made to trim the horns from rhinoceroses to discourage poachers; the question is whether tourists will continue to visit game parks and see rhinoceroses after their horns are trimmed
(A) whether tourists will continue to visit game parks and see rhinoceroses after their horns are
(B) whether tourists will continue to visit game parks to see one once their horns are
(C) whether tourists will continue to visit game parks to see rhinoceroses once the animals’ horns have been
(D) if tourists will continue to visit game parks and see rhinoceroses once the animals’ horns are
(E) if tourists will continue to visit game parks to see one after the animals’ horns have been
I don't have the OG12
in front of me at the moment, so I don't know what they wrote in the explanation, but while the problem is here, let's break it down.
You are absolutely right that there is no way to confuse people as the referent for "their". However, when an SC problem bothers to replace a pronoun with the actual noun, the result is a clearer sentence and there'll be preference for such an answer choice. Even when a pronoun is not ambiguous, the reader does have to do the work of finding the referent, and so a sentence is always a bit clearer when the noun is used instead of the pronoun.
There are three other major issues here though:
1) Tenses: We want to indicate that the trimming precedes the visiting; this is why 'has been' is needed-- the past has to be involved in the verb.
2) If vs. Whether: IF THE SENTENCE IS NOT A CONDITIONAL, DO NOT USE 'IF'.
3) Ellipses: In B, the word 'one' means 'one rhinoceros'. But the word 'rhinoceros' does not appear in the sentence. Only the plural, 'rhinoceroses', appears, and you cannot imply a word that never shows up!
More on conditionals in SC Lesson 8 and practice with ellipses in SC Lesson 9 at gmaxonline!