Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anniversaries again

Time flies like a banana, doesn't it? Today marks five years of posting at our little corner of cyberspace here, so consider yourself welcome to our open house. Come in and support the Michigan economy with a fine Bell's product! (Cheaper than a Pinto and less flammable.)

Things have changed a bit over the years. Headsup: The Blog began life as an online version of HEADSUP-L, the semiregular critique of copy editing at the Missouri J-school's baddest and most venerable teaching laboratory, the century-old daily known as the Missourian. Other topics and other news sources began to drift in as they seemed pertinent to the ongoing question of what editors do and whether and how they should or shouldn't do it.

The table also got bigger as other folks started to stop by: Doug from the small world of the editing classroom, Hat from the land of language blogging, RayB and Strayhorn from newspapers past, The Ridger from the corner of Language and Politics. Those were some of the early visitors, and I certainly don't mean to slight any of the other fine characters who comment, send in tips, provide the occasional link, or just read. (Except the guy with the WoW Gold. He's slighted.) I'd say it's still an editing blog, but it's less tolerant of peeving -- and journalistic gullibility -- than it used to be, and perhaps a little more inclined to address the general WTF-hood of journalism today. And five years ago, I might have worried about that last comma.

I'm your editor, and I generally go by Fred. (Those are my initials* at the end of the posts, but I don't use the whole thing in publishing, because that gets you to a rather different publication record.) I write about editing because I think it's an important craft and because it's what I did for many years before I jumped the fence into graduate school full time back in 2004. And, at least since I first annoyed a supervising editor by posting our convention hed next to the ayem competition's on the bulletin board -- "Ex-Candidate Leaves Mark On Platform" and "Carter Finds Platform Sticky," if you're scoring along at home** -- I've kept a file open for things that slip past editors. Think of it as a reminder of all the things we catch.

This is Language Czarina, my partner in assorted crime and misdemeanor.*** Conveniently, when I was dissertating and she was academic-advising, a job opened up at the Big State University where she had been a wide-eyed little sorceress way back when, and it turned out to be a nice fit. We live in her old hometown, which has three brewpubs, an 80-year-old bakery that starts turning out octopus-shaped cupcakes at this point in the playoffs, and Dr. Kevorkian collecting signatures downtown. I actually do have a view of Canada from my office. (She has a view of an inflatable moose head, which is not bad.) In what may prove a surprise to our far-distant newspaper colleagues, we have produced our first co-authored paper, albeit her degree is in Blake.

I really do like the stuff I teach, which tends most frequently to be editing, content analysis and journalism history. Most of my research time goes into looking at things that got my attention when I was a working editor: how stuff comes to look the way it does in news accounts (particularly the Fractious Near East and the creation of threats) and what happens when it does. I try to be sure it makes as much sense to editors as it does to academics. That's a little optimistic.

You've already met Woodchuck and Bernie, the official research kitties, but here they are again. Bernie's the one who sounds like Jon Stewart imitating Dick Cheney. Woodchuck's the dreamy one. Pictures of Your Editor are rare, for good reason, but if you look here, he's on the left. (Didn't know there was a Christmas version of "Nunsense," did you?)

And that's our show. Please stop by often. And please say nice things to your friendly neighborhood copy editors, should you see them stalking the earth in daylight. They're some of the better-behaved and more sensible people in journalism. There's a lot about the craft that I don't miss, and if you want my three slices of mediocre free pizza next election night, you can have them. (Please don't get me started on the sort of deep-catalog clue deprivation that prevails among those who desperately want a glass office of their own.) But you can't watch the game without a kind thought for the people who are still playing it.

* At my first newspaper, you used a string of characters including your initials to wake up the VDTs -- mean little dinosaurs that would hold all for 3,500 characters before you had to dump your prose to a punch tape. We sort of got into the habit.
** My own Most Fun Hed was a 1/30/2 on the occasion of the Rajneeshis buying their ranch: "Om, om on the range." I don't do that anymore.
*** Bonus points for identifying the tube stop. It isn't the nearest one to the buro.



Anonymous Ed Latham said...

The Piccadilly, the District, the unmistakable old-skool destination boards: it's Earl's Court!

(With an apostrophe, of course. Next stop westbound: Barons Court. Without an apostrophe.)

3:50 AM, April 30, 2010  
Blogger Nick said...

Congratulations, Fred. I very much enjoy the blog. Especially the callouts on TWE and TCM.

11:26 AM, April 30, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats. It's as tho you never left the world o' heds and good, hard reads.

1:53 PM, April 30, 2010  
Anonymous Matthew Crowley said...

Congratulations, Fred. Love what goes on here.

6:18 PM, April 30, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Congratulations! (And thanks for the shout out) I most definitely love this blog.

8:40 PM, April 30, 2010  
Anonymous Bob L said...

Happy Anniversary, Fred. I'll have to revise my mental image of you (somehow I thot you'd be older), and seriously upgrade that of the L.C. I enjoy the blog -- the tone of voice at least as much as the content -- and read it faithfully (if in spurts). Also, please tell L.C. that one of your readers got his English degree in Milton (Blake was already taken that year.) He was almost as good at defending the press as you are.

8:24 PM, May 01, 2010  
Blogger Niko Dugan said...

Congratulations to the man who, in this blog's nascent stages as HEADSUP-L, taught a lowly Missourian copy desker that perhaps four squat columns wasn't the best design idea for a Nation/World briefs package. It has not happened again.

2:20 AM, May 02, 2010  

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