Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why people hate grammar

Actually, they probably don't. But people tend to think they hate grammar because they've been whacked upside the head since childhood with an array of unfounded whims, prescriptive nonsense and holier-n-thou mandates about speech features, all wearing an unconvincing fake mustache and posing as "grammar."

This morning's edition of the "Jump Start" comic strip manages to touch just about all the bases. Listen and attend as the Annoying Schoolmarm character takes the extended family to task:

"I've called this meeting because you all use poor grammar." ("Brace yourself," Joe tells Marcy.)

"Clarence starts too many of his sentences with 'basically.'"

"Marcy uses the phrase 'little tiny' which is redundant." ("True," says Joe, in whom the Force obviously does not run strong, since he doesn't belt his mom in the chops for the restrictive 'which.')

"Clayton ordered salmon and he pronounced the silent 'L'!" ("Gulp!")

"Maureen says 'ditn't' instead of 'didn't.'"

"And Charlene, like George W., says 'nu-cu-ler' instead of 'nuclear.'"

Who wouldn't hate grammar if it meant all that stuff? How convenient for us that it doesn't. Grammar doesn't mind a little extra redundancy for added emphasis. Fortunately, it doesn't have a problem with sentence adverbs. And devoicing and cluster reduction aren't even in the same domain as grammar.*

Headsup-the-Blog, of course, is the online home of the Grammar Is Nothing But Legos movement, and all you have to do to join is drink our powdered soft drink mix. Grammar's about what the red Lego and the white Lego do and the ways in which they can and can't be put together. Style, tone and register are all cool, but none of them are "grammar." Study and enjoy them all. Just don't get them mixed up. Please. It gives grammar a bad name and a lot of enemies it doesn't need or deserve.

* A good reason for not trying to transcribe dialect, the domain they do belong to, is that it's devilish hard to get right.** People who reduce the consonant cluster in "nuclear" almost never pronounce the vowels in the first two syllables identically; nu-kyu-ler or nu-kee-ler would be better guesses. And needless to say, George W. ain't even the first nukeler-speaking president of HEADSUP-L's journalism career.
** Should this be read as a suggestion that the Missourian sports department stop trying to write dialect? It certainly should.

Sunday morning with the news

A few not-quite-random goodies from the morning's stroll through the news. Odd how this works: Stuff that's a bad idea at one paper is usually a bad idea at any paper. Pause a moment to reflect on whether any of these sins have crossed a screen near you lately.

Hickory police said they may charge him in the March 2004 beating death of a third woman, Betsy Dickens. No charges had been filed as of Saturday.
Well, that's nice. Do we have any standards for when we accuse people of murder, or do we just sort of say whatever the cops tell us to?

The current carried crushing power, sweeping away the home and family of park ranger Jerry Toops. Fortunately, the Toops’ escaped death.
Behold the Anchorperson Adverb, so called from its prevalence in clueless local TV reporting. Readers generally know it's a Good Thing when people aren't killed in disasters or accidents. You don't have to tell them you think it's fortunate. Nor, while we're here, should you be forming plurals by adding apostrophes.

Thousands demand
fair immigrant laws
Between 5,000 and 7,000 gather uptown, joining rallies across U.S.
The 1A centerpiece is a pretty prominent place to express an editorial opinion. Should one gather that the whole staff has been formally apprised of the party line on the fairness of immigration law?

Belarus may walk
the Ukraine's
revolutionary path
Then again, of course, it may not. Which, indeed, is kind of the whole point of this fairly informative story. Use headlines to inform, not to guess. And pay attention to style; most U.S. news organizations dropped the article with "Ukraine" more than a decade ago.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dumb editing: Gold medal contender

"First, do no harm" means exactly that. It means no chopping the legs off and reattaching them at the earholes. No dropping patients off a 10-story building to test their rebounding abilities. &c &c &c. In short, no practicing your skills of a Frankenstein on a story just to prove that you can. Get it?

Here's today's example, in which a reasonably informative -- not to mention interesting -- AP tale becomes a bizarre, pointless headscratcher after being subjected to the "editing" "process."

Two, three, four:

Settlement may have big impact
1911 British law cited in family's lawsuit affects a third of world
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The story surrounding the song that never seems to go out of date amounts to a rags-to-riches tale, replete with racial overtones.

No one is saying how many millions will go to the daughters of the late composer Solomon Linda, who died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53. But the family's settlement last month with New York-based Abilene Music gives Linda's heirs 25 percent of past and future royalties and has broad implications.

Linda composed his now-famous song in 1939 in one of the squalid hostels that housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg. According to family lore, he wrote the song in minutes, inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded. He called the song Mbube, Zulu for lion.

By now you might be wondering, and rightly so, what "the song that never seems to go out of date" might be. "Happy Birthday"? "Purple Haze"? "Mandy"? Well, too bad for you. You can read on and on and on -- indeed, through the whole story -- and never find out.

Had the editor simply left the original AP lede in place, how simple your job would have been:

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Three impoverished South African women, whose father wrote the song known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," have won a six-year battle for royalties in a case that could affect other musicians.

An explanation might be useful (or maybe just scary). If I were guessing, I'd say it was a case of "second-cycling" -- downplaying the "what" (presuming that everybody's heard it) to emphasize the "so what" or "now what." That's often a good idea, but it's not a mandate. It's a decision based on several essential conditions, including:
1) Everybody has heard the news in question. Often a good guess, but doubtful here.
2) You keep at least some mention of all the relevant facts. Like, say, the title of the "song that never seems to go out of date" (or those "racial overtones" that the paper seems to think need no explanation).

Not that there isn't enough embarrassment to go around on this one already, but by the way: Don't write "may" heds on stories about legal decisions. Come to that, don't write "may" heds, period, unless you have room for a deck that says "then again, may not."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No comment? No comment

The excellent North Carolina Bureau checks in with this Reuters yarn:

Wrath of God behind Israel bird flu?
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An outbreak of deadly bird flu in Israel is God's punishment for calls in election ads to legalize gay marriages, according to Rabbi David Basri, a prominent sage preaching Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism.

Given the dateline,* the least we could expect is a graf on the order of: "A request for comment folded on a piece of paper and placed between two blocks of the Western Wall was not immediately returned."

But there are ways of guessing in advance what the comment's likely to be: No. Dammit.

* What are we talking, 20 minutes' walk from the Government Press Office? Sheez.

If it sounds like writing ...

Courtesy the cool folks at Language Log, some rules of writing by Elmore Leonard, who's not half bad. The list, with full explanations, is distinctly worth your time, but note meanwhile how much of his advice applies to news writing (yep, that means to copy editing) as well:

1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. (Mr.Leonard is too polite to say it, but Your Editor will add: And you'll probably sound like you don't know what you're doing in the bargain.)

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

And finally:
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Somebody wants to translate that into Latin, we can put it above the lions and call it good.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Life imitates J4400

Good old real life, jumping in again to remind us that all the boring stuff in your basic editing classes is actually there for some sort of reason, honest.

Tuesday's discussion was about bad reasoning, particularly stuff that sources try to push past us or stuff journalists do to themselves. And it touched on errors of ambiguity, as in the textbook* example of the fallacy of equivocation: "I gave you my reasons, but you don't listen to reason!" The misunderstanding comes from the shifting meanings of "reason" in the sentence: "I gave you my (explanation/justification), but you don't listen to (sound thought or judgment)."

Comes now Thursday and the onset of Operation Swarmer, as urgented by the AP: U.S. and Iraqi forces on Thursday launched what was termed the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion, targeting insurgent strongholds north of the capital, the U.S. military said.

Well, that seems to have gotten editors' and designers' attention, leading to heds on the order of "U.S. attack in Iraq massive" (see the page here) with, well, no story but some bullet points to hold them up. Papers still covering Iraq on their own (and running stories rather than bullet items) didn't necessarily fare much better; the Chicago Tribune lede pointed to an "airborne assault near Samarra that the military described as one of the largest of the war."

It's nice to see the now-three-year-old Iraq war pushing its way onto the front despite the onset of the basketball tournament.** But is this smoke-'em-out effort being played in tune with its scale and relevance? A refreshing rejoinder, appropriately if snarkily titled "Airtime assault," at the BBC points to the success of equivocation here.

"The international news agencies immediately rang the urgent bells on the story," as the Beeb's Jim Muir puts it. "Around the world, programmes were interrupted as screens flashed the news, which dominated the global media agenda for the next 12 hours or more. On the New York Stock Exchange, oil prices jumped $1.41 a barrel "with a massive US-led air assault in Iraq intensifying jitters about global supplies of crude", as one agency reported it. "

The bloom is a bit off the rose by the Friday ayems coverage. Here's the AP: U.S. and Iraqi troops pressed their sweep through a 100-square-mile swath of central Iraq on Friday in a bid to break up a center of insurgent resistance, the U.S. military said. No resistance or casualties were reported.
"We believe we achieved tactical surprise," Lt. Col. Edward Loomis, spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division, said of the day-old Operation Swarmer. He said about 40 suspects were detained, 10 of whom were later released.
(The BBC says 48, "of whom 17 were freed without delay").

Here's Muir on how it all got so urgent on us:

The use of the phrase "the largest air assault operation" was clearly crucial, raising visions of a massive bombing campaign. In fact, all the phrase meant is that more helicopters were deployed to airlift the the troops into the area than in previous such operations. ... A US military spokesman gave the BBC the following official definition of the term:
"According to US joint [multiservice] doctrine, an air assault is one in which assault forces, using the mobility of rotary wing assets and total integration of available firepower, manoeuvre under the control of a ground or air manoeuvre commander to engage enemy forces or seize key terrain."

Sounds a bit less dramatic if "air assault" only means one thing (troop movement by helicopter), rather than two (BIFF! POW! ZANG!), in the same conversation, doesn't it?

Muir also takes us back through the files:
Operation Swarmer clearly bore no comparison in scale to the initial attack which brought down Saddam Hussein's regime or to the massive assault on the insurgent stronghold in the city of Falluja in November 2004.

Nor did it appear to match a series of counter-insurgency operations involving air strikes and ground forces in remote areas near the Syrian border in western Iraq last year. In one four-day campaign last May, the US military said it had killed 125 insurgents for the loss of nine of its own men killed and 40 injured.

Nice thing is, nobody had to lie to anybody. The Pentagon seems to have been perfectly happy to explain the meaning of "air assault" to any journalist who asked. And those who didn't at least got some nice heds out of the whole matter.

* "With Good Reason," by S. Morris Ernst. Highly recommended.
** And while we're at it, let's add "madness" to the list of Forbidden NCAA Hed Words, along with "Dance," "Elite" and "Sweet."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Engage brain before writing

An entertaining bit of Writing About Yourself from the Old Reliable:

The acquisition reshapes the North Carolina newspaper landscape by putting the state's two largest papers -- The Charlotte Observer and The N&O -- under the same ownership. By purchasing the nation's second-largest newspaper chain, California-based McClatchy also will take over reputable newspapers such as the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Or in English:
1) McClatchy gets the Observer.
2) McClatchy gets some reputable papers too!

This is the sort of thing that's too stupid to be deliberate. But it certainly might seem that way to civilians.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It's official: Christmas comes early

Or at least it can for lucky Missourian readers if this:

Big East crashes Big Dance

(1B Monday) is the last hed of 2006 to refer to the NCAA men's basketball championship as the Big Dance. Likewise, consider this a plea for a ban on "Sweet," "Elite" and all other faux-proper-noun-derived modifiers in heds and a renewal of the proscription on "celebrates," "reacts" and similar cutline verbs.

HEADSUP-L is a social-capital-minded sort of place, and its Xpesmas wishes tend to reflect that:
1) Peace on earth
2) Goodwill to men
3) No more sexist language
4) Dick Vitale tortured by orcs

We don't expect all of those to be granted. But an end to "Big Dance" would be a nice place to start.

Comments, K-R hands?

NEW YORK (AP) - Newspaper publishing company McClatchy Co. will buy Knight Ridder Inc., the second-largest newspaper company in the country, for about $4.5 billion in cash and stock, The New York Times reported Sunday night.

Thoughts, comments, insights on the atmos at your sundry shops are welcomed. HEADSUP-L is sort of wondering which box he packed his glove in.

Why do the heathen rage?

Umm ... because reporters keep writing boneheaded stuff under the label of religion reporting, and copy editors keep letting them get away with it? Yeah, that'd be it.

For a quick discussion, though: What would you identify as the central flaw of this passage?

But a recent nationwide survey by The Barna Group, a leading Christian research organization, suggests that pastors don't really know their own congregations well.

Researchers asked 1,002 Americans to list their personal priorities, and only 15 percent ranked God and faith first. Meanwhile, 627 Protestant pastors said they believed 70 percent of their church members would place God as their highest priority.

That's a 55 percent discrepancy.

There's plenty to chew on there, and somebody else jumps on your favorite point first, feel free to point out anything else that ails the article (it doesn't seem to be online yet, but you shouldn't have any trouble finding it in your favorite Sunday morning paper).

By a pleasant coincidence, should anyone want to get a head start: What do you figure would be a good way to start the conversation in J4400 on Tuesday evening?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Heed no nightly noise (double feature)

Latest in a series of small-scale reminders of the difference between genuine grammatical rules and silly prescriptivist twitches. Some recent examples:

Analysts said Friday, however, that with Gulf nations awash in cash from oil profits, the United States remains a tempting market to invest.

Looks as if the AP, flinching at the thought of a ruler-wielding grammar-school ghost about to bust its knuckles, decided not to end its sentence with a preposition. Too bad. That's a grammar problem, because transitive "invest" means a lot of rather different stuff than intransitive "invest." The AP wanted "invest in," meaning to put money into the United States, not "invest," meaning, say, to put the United States into an IRA, or to clothe it, or to surround it with troops. Thus, in obeying a fake rule, the writer breaks a real one.1

Here's a more Missourian-specific peeve; the result isn't a broken rule, but it is weak writing brought on by fear of a fake rule.

Deaton’s report states that Snyder’s response at the time was, “I think I’m better off resigning.”

The report also states that Snyder was aware of expectations more than a year ago.

Once again: Reports don't "state." Reports "say." As a matter of general practice, use "state" only with a simple direct object:

He stated his objections to the plan.

The platform states the party's position on foreign trade.

Don't use it with a clause object, no matter whether the subject is a person or a piece of paper:

* He stated that he was happy.

* The affidavit stated that the athletic director is a six-legged robot gerbil under the control of Carmine "Cigar" Galante.

Got it?

1) In fixing this one, be sure to avoid the related error known as the McCartney preposition: "... remains a tempting market in which to invest in."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Word flu

The Ledes of Satan are like any other epidemic -- the infection crops up in one place, then the next thing you know it's hopped state lines, and the next thing after that we're all doing grisly Swedish forms of penance in our spare time.

To, to reiterate, certain ledes are banned forever, under all circumstances, no matter where you are, no matter your circulation:

2006 is last season for MB amusement park
It's official: Say good-bye to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park.

'Nuff said. Though as time permits, it'll be worth looking at a case in which this smaller K-R rag wrote a smarter and more sophisticated hed than its confreres to the west.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forbidden ledes and other delights

Would somebody like to explain the reasoning on this one?

It's official: Charlotte is now the center of the NASCAR universe.

Did we think that somehow all the Evil Lede gunk would be magically washed off? Or that because this was clearly the Most Super-Enormous Important Sports Story since, oh, 2003 or so, the readers really, really needed the "It's official"? Or is there a secret project under way to try cliche ledes on every story in the paper?

It's official: Gov. Mike Rounds signed legislation Monday banning nearly all abortions in South Dakota!

It's official: Republicans in Congress are trying to limit the scope of any investigation into how President Bush's secret domestic-surveillance program has operated!

It's official: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the government can force colleges to open their campuses to military recruiters!

No, no, no. Forbidden ledes are barred under all circumstances. How many editors failed in their duty to stop this lede before it hit the dead pine trees?

Meanwhile, debate rages over this entry:

No sweat: S.C. was actually a little cool last year
Good morning. Today's Lowcountry forecast is for another gasping hot one. The high will be 110 degrees. The heat index will be 130, a little cooler on the beaches. Records for today are ...

Last year was one of the hottest on record worldwide, researchers say, a finding that has touched off another round of are-we or aren't-we global-warming debate. But in South Carolina, it was one of the cooler years on record.

Don't bother to shiver. The average 2005 temperature ranked 70th out of 110 years on record, but the temperature was 64.35 degrees Fahrenheit - a smidgen above normal. And researchers say that relative coolness actually could have been caused by warming in the world's oceans.

The National Aeronautic and Atmospheric Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies says the temperature rose 1.4 degrees worldwide in the 20th century, 1 degree of that since 1970.

Meanwhile, long range climate forecast models suggest the more SPF in the sunscreen the better. The two leading models disagree only on whether temperatures or heat index will climb higher.

Interestingly enough, while there was a cooling trend in the state inland in the past century, there was a warming trend - as much as 4 degrees- along the coast.

"We recognize there's a cooling trend, but is it a significant trend? No," said Hope Mizzell, state climatologist.

It kind of goes on and on and on from here. If anybody can figure out where exactly it's going, or what it's doing in the newspaper, pls advise.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Get in line, hiring editors

Somebody just rang up a 97.9 percent on the style exam.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Parade of stupid questions

Quick, what's a good argument against running a hed like this:

Are remains truly Joan of Arc's?
Experts hope to prove whether skin, bone fragments are saint's
PARIS - Nearly 700 years after the death of Joan of Arc, a French forensic team hopes a series of tests will prove whether charred fragments of skin and bones might be those of the 15th-century heroine

How about ... because we ran the same hed on the AP version three weeks ago!
Could remains come from Joan of Arc?
A team of scientists hopes to crack one of the layers of mystery surrounding 15th-century French heroine Joan of Arc: Could a rib and other fragments recovered after she was burned at the stake be hers?

Notice that although the heds ask different Stupid Questions, the ledes ask effectively the same one. And the answer is: Of course they could! And they could be Fideaux the dog!

If we'd bothered to read our own AP tale, we might have noticed something relevant. Given that there's no sample to compare the relics with, there's no way on God's green earth we can know whether they're hers. Best we can do, apparently, is determine whether they're actually a human female from around the 15th century (it's hard to tell whether the doc or the AP is responsible for saying tests can determine the stuff's "exact age," but if that didn't strike you as patent nonsense from the outset, please post your credit card number here for a chance to win your own bridge across the Rhone). We might be able to rule out Joan of Arc, or John of Arc, or Fido of Arc, but we aren't going to be able to rule anybody in. And we probably could have figured that out without running the story twice.

HEADSUP-L would really appreciate it if we exercised a little more judgment over the stuff that goes on the religion pages. There's no reason the Faith section has to be the Stupid section. Come to think of it, there's no reason the A section should be either, but one battle at a time.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Life imitates art

Ah, happy day, when the week's discussion topics immediately make their way into print by way of illustration.

The copy editor's job, to reiterate, is generally* not to determine the form or purpose of the story; it's to determine that the forms chosen by the originating editors and writers are executed at peak efficiency and economy. That's no mean challenge, as evidenced on 11A Wednesday:

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton moderated a forum Tuesday night that featured three professors who discussed the merits of research. They argued that basic research is often more valuable to the community than specific applied research.

Our job isn't to determine that this event needed a subject-verb-object lede; it's to ensure that the right subject, verb and object are chosen. A good test for that category is to take the first independent clause and turn it into a hed:

(The exclamation point isn't really necessary, but it does help get the point across)

Then we look at the relative and subordinate clauses -- not because we'll draw heds from them,** but to see what sort of excitement they add to the general tenor of things:



Things, as you can see, are going downhill in a major hurry. That suggests that maybe we should shift our focus from the chancellor (who has a news bureau to publicize his good deeds), and the fact of the discussion (known from the previous edition), to what was said:

Basic research is often more valuable to the community than specific applied research, three professors argued at a forum Thursday night.

It's still a perverted pyramid and still (with a slight inversion) an S-V-O lede. But at least now the small fraction of news the event produced has pride of place.

We don't decide on form. We do help the city desk carry out its decisions effectively. Good?

* "Generally" is there for a reason. 'Tis always the season somewhere for misbegotten ledes and misshapen stories.
** Everybody's heard the sermon about heds' never coming from relative clauses, yes?

Engage brain before editing

Some before-and-after editing examples of stuff never to do with copy. The first makes a grammatical change; the result isn't "bad grammar" but perfectly correct grammar that happens to mean something entirely distinct from what the author meant. Hence the basic rule we know of as RTFS, one subset of which is: Don't "correct" what the author is saying until you (a) know what the author is saying and (b) know it's wrong.

Here's the AP:
More traditionally moderate to left-leaning media have also criticized Harvard's faculty.

And the Missourian:
Traditionally, moderate to left-leaning media have also criticized Harvard's faculty.

This is why we go over the grammar stuff in J4400. Adverbs can modify lots of things: verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, whole sentences. In the AP original, "traditionally" is modifying the adjective phrase "moderate to left-leaning," and the meaning is that the media in question are traditionally moderate to left-leaning.

In the Missourian version, "traditionally" has become what's called a "sentence adverb." It modifies the whole sentence, as in the classic Anchorman Adverb: "Fortunately, no one was hurt," meaning "(it is fortunate that) no one was hurt."

See the change? The AP was talking about the political position of the media outlets that are now attacking the Harvard faculty: They're traditionally liberal-ish. In the Missourian, it's become a longstanding habit : (It is traditional that) Librul Media bash on the Harvard faculty. Is there some evidence to support that? Is it something like the Hasty Pudding celebration?

The relevance of the AP's opinion about the political stance of these media (the Washington Post and the New Republic, in the full version) is open to debate. So is its accuracy; has nobody at the AP read TNR since it became a six-legged zombie robot of the neocons in the late 1980s? But those are beside the point. Little Sir Comma changed the meaning of the graf in a particularly weird way. Let's not do that anymore, OK?

The second is actual stone-cold wrong grammar (by which I mean not only prescriptive but constitutive; the result is not a sentence in English).

Original: Fisher says the contention Summers was the victim of thought police is a red herring.

Missourian: Fisher says Summers was the victim of thought police is a red herring.

Even without the two conjunctive "that"s (no problem dropping the one after "says," but the one after "contention" should have stayed), the original is a perfectly adequate sentence. "Contention" is the simple subject of the subordinated clause. "Summers" is the simple subject of the embedded "that"-less subordinate within that clause. English can do that sort of stuff almost indefinitely ("This is the cat that killed the rat ..."). But in the edited version, an independent clause becomes the subject of another independent clause, and that doesn't work:

* I am going to the store is a good idea.

You can do it if the subject is a title or a quote:

"Take the A train" is my favorite song.

but otherwise, no. We took a sentence and, for some incomprehensible reason, turned it into a nonsentence. Even if we had gained a line, it would have been a bad edit (the mandate is "omit needless words," not "omit words").

You could, I suppose, on some planet with multiple suns, contend that "Summers was a victim of the thought police" can too be the sort of unit that could act as a subject. If so, though, which clause is the object? One gets a headache thinking about it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: Last few grafs of a wire story on an inside page in the Monday paper. That's not an excuse for turning news into nonsense. Please don't.