Friday, October 15, 2010

Clueless edit of the (rapidly fading) year

McClatchy Newspapers
Posted: Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
WASHINGTON American voters could have a major impact on the outcome of 20 House of Representatives races and 14 Senate contests if they can reverse a pattern of low turnout in nonpresidential election years, according to a report that the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released Thursday.

Odd. You would have thought that American voters were going to have a major impact on nearly all the congressional races around this great land of ours. Either McClatchy knows more about the Alien Menace than it's letting on or ...
WASHINGTON — African-American voters could have a major impact on the outcome of 20 House of Representatives races and 14 Senate contests if they can reverse a pattern of low turnout in nonpresidential election years, according to a report that the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released Thursday.

Things do make a bit more sense at the McClatchy Web site, don't they?

To be fair, the Observer lede (shown at top) did appear under a hed that got the message across: "High black turnout could help Democrats." But that's not an excuse for this sort of editorial butchery. There's an outside chance it could have been an accident -- that whatever gets the dashes out from between dateline and lede also clipped the "African" in "African-American." Perhaps more plausibly, someone could have glitched while de-hyphenating "African-American."

Since the lede appears twice (here's a screen grab of how it looks in the index of the online A section), I'm somewhat more inclined to think it was deliberate -- an especially bizarre bust by the Diversity Police. The American press has a long and unfortunate history of playing up matters like ethnicity in cases where they aren't relevant, so editors condition themselves to find and stop things like "two black men were arrested after a car chase." It's the same process by which a "fireman" (the people who stoked locomotives in the days of steam) becomes a "firefighter" (the gender-neutral term for people in the fire station): working just a little too fast, and focusing just a little too narrowly, to see the contextual clues that make the decision a really dumb one.

Eyewitness accounts, of course, are welcome. Meanwhile, a reminder: If someone up the food chain from you asks "Why did you leave race in the lede?", it's perfectly all right to answer "Because it's a story about black voting."

* IIRC, house style used to be "African American" as a noun, "African-American" as an adjective. If that was still in effect, such an edit would violate style. It happens.

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1 Comments:

Blogger John Cowan said...

What on earth would make you think that American voters affect how elections turn out?

3:34 PM, October 15, 2010  

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