Monday, August 13, 2007

Editors of Christmas Future

It's almost syllabus time here at the new digs (as in, right after we get back with the groceries), and you're all invited to join in the fun. Today's question:

What's the one thing you want the editors of the future to know?

In case you're wondering, yes, they'll hear about Christmas Came Early, why the thing about sentence-final prepositions isn't a rule, the bit about not putting it on the screen if you don't want to see it in the paper, why "margin of error" is meaningless without the confidence level, that sort of stuff. That should suggest that we're open to a range of stuff here: Grammar tips, cross-cultural f***ups, the win and awesome of effect sizes, the ceremony for exorcising Gannett demons from your publisher -- it's up to y'all.

Everybody can play (unless the one thing you want editors to know is where to find your blog on beauty tips): students, rimsters and writers, visitors from other professional and academic domains, intelligent ammonia beings from the Planet Mxyzptlk, and MANY MANY MORE. Add comments to the comments place.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Can I offer a very simple "Make sure that (a) the headline matches the story and (b) the story matches the truth, supported and without spin"?

Or if that's too basic and/or pie-in-the-sky, "it's still important after a week".

11:51 AM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Pam said...

Yes, accuracy and perspective, too. And that both sides of an argument are not always equal in weight and thus shouldn't portrayed that way. Use some judgment.

7:32 PM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Grant Barrett said...

These are focused on things I see in my work as a lexicographer, but given what I remember about my days as a journalist, I think they have some general application.

A press release isn't a source. It's merely a tip sheet for a story idea.

If you're doing a story based on the results of research or a study, then quote the researchers, the pollsters, or the articles they've written--don't quote the people from their organization's PR division.

Acts of word coinage are as common as acts of excretion. Don't hang a story on them.

Trying to make something seem significant by writing, "There's even a word for it" doesn't work because there's a word or phrase for *everything.*

Claims made in obituaries should be fact-checked just like anything else, especially if they're tagged as "first" or "best" or "originated" or "invented" or "coined."

When writing about a word from a foreign language, phrases like "from an African dialect word" or "in an Indian dialect it means" are copouts for not having the facts. Find and use the language name.

When rewriting wire stories, resist the urge to rewrite the hed based upon the pre-existing hed. Doing that is called "lossy" hed-writing because you lose more information that way than if you write the hed from your own copy.

"Webster's" isn't a dictionary. It absolutely isn't. "Webster's" is no longer trademarked or copyrighted and can be used by anyone. You need to specify the exact name of the dictionary or dictionary publisher. For example, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, 11th Edition, is a different book that Webster's New World College Dictionary. Different publishers, even.

Being a journalist who works in words doesn't qualify you any more than any other educated person to write as about lexicography, linguistics, or dialectology, or grammar. When you're writing about these subjects, find reliable sources.

8:28 AM, August 15, 2007  
Blogger nicole bogdas said...

1. When possible, spin it forward. What I don't need to know the next day "33 dead in Va. Tech shooting." Try for humanity, "People were jumping out of windows" or again, the newest possible nugget: "Shooter was ordered psych help."

2. In that same vein, make it interesting/relevant to me. When we're talking nat/for news bringing the human elemant in always works best for me. and even if it's a less explored angle, give me the latest: see above useless Va. Tecj hed.

3. RTFP. I'm so sick of first day heds on second day stories I could puke.

7:11 AM, August 18, 2007  
Blogger Dan said...

A little late, but here are a few fev lessons that will always stay with me:

- It does you no good to catch five land mines if there are six in the field. (aka You can drown in an inch of water.)
- RTFS. and RTFP.
- And an inch less foam is an inch more beer.

11:43 PM, August 23, 2007  

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