Monday, March 22, 2010

Making the writer look dumb

Here's the tag end of an AP obit from the Friday paper:

Fess Elisha Parker Jr. was born Aug. 16, 1924, in Ft. Worth, Texas.

He later received a bache­lor’s degree from the Universi­ty of Texas.

That fun-loving AP! Even if you go to summer school and everything, it's almost impossible to graduate before you were born!

Anyway, though. You can tell that some editing has been done: the Freep has turned "Fort Worth" in to "Ft. Worth," per house style. And if you look around a bit, you can see that there's more work here than meets the eye:

Fess Elisha Parker Jr. was born Aug. 16, 1924, in Fort Worth, Texas — Parker loved to point out Crockett's birthday was Aug. 17. He played football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene but was injured in a nearly fatal road-rage knifing in 1946.

"There went my football career," Parker had said.

He later earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas.

Parker was discovered by actor Adolphe Menjou, who was Oscar-nominated for "The Front Page" in 1931 and who was a guest artist at the University of Texas.

Oh. So not only does the transition make sense, it actually leads to a cool bit of trivia -- Fess Parker, discovered by the second-best Walter Burns ever!

Instead, we get another classic case of an editor opening the patient up and forgetting to count the scalpels before closing. There's more to editing than chopping things out at random until you reach the specified length. If your computer can turn "Fort" into "Ft." while you sleep or get coffee or whatever, it can probably be told how to zap clauses, sentences and paragraphs until the line count is correct. And the computer doesn't get overtime.



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