Thursday, July 09, 2009

Up with this is now put?

There's something about NYT corrections that makes garden-variety NYT prose seem to crackle with literary fire by comparison:

Because of an editing error, the Châteauroux Journal article last Monday, about the American influence in Châteauroux, France, formerly the site of the largest American military base in postwar Europe, misstated the size of a stone cellar that once housed a dance hall beneath the Joe from Maine hamburger restaurant, founded by an American G.I. and his French wife.

An article on Friday about the intersecting lives of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University student fatally shot inside a campus bookstore, and Stephen P. Morgan, the man accused of killing her, included an erroneous location from a city official for the discovery of a computer belonging to Mr. Morgan, and misstated the location where his journal, which contained threats to Ms. Justin-Jinich and others, was found by the police.

These two weigh in collectively at a cool 30.0 on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level test, leading one to suspect that the Times has a policy of making you fall asleep before you figure out what the correction is trying to correct. What a pleasure, then, to see this sentence among the morning's crop of WWWs:

An article on Tuesday about the ecological role of beetles that are attacking pine forests in the West misstated part of the name of the climate organization that Steve Running, an ecologist, is affiliated with. Dr. Running is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, not the Internal Panel on Climate Change.

Not only are we down below 30 words a sentence, but -- is that a preposition with which that first sentence is seen by us to be ending? It's as if it had been decreed that corrections could now be written in language that is plain and comprehensible.
[NB: Edited in light of the comment below (tnx, Ray!) -- should have left the rest of the correction in place to begin with. My goof.]

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Anonymous raYb said...

Light on words the correction may be, but on information is it even less light. What, prithee, might be the correct name of the organization with which Mr. Running is affiliated?

5:45 PM, July 09, 2009  
Blogger John Cowan said...

Umm, I think you mean "more light". But the first two corrections aren't just verbally opaque, they fail to tell us what the correction was. Granted, I may not really give a rubber rat's red ass about whether the size of the cellar was 10 or 20 square meters, but if you're going to bother running the correction at all, you might as well include what you should have written in the first place.

5:53 AM, July 17, 2009  

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