Saturday, January 29, 2011

No. It couldn't. It really couldn't.

This is a real newspaper, not the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, so couldn't some editor have stepped in and stopped this?

The global Muslim population will grow at about twice the rate for non-Muslims in the next 20 years, but the Muslim population in the United States will remain very small, according to a report released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The research could ease fears of some anti-Islam activists who think Muslims are taking over the West. In 2030, Muslims are projected to make up just 1.7 percent of the U.S. population and 8 percent of the European population.

There's a slight problem. To bring it into focus, perhaps we could replace "anti-Islam activists" with "anti-Negro activists." Still happy with the amount of frontpage attention you're giving their interests?

Good, because that should suggest a rather massive hole in your premise. The "anti-Islam activists" who "think Muslims are taking over the West" aren't going to be relieved to hear that the 2030 projection is "just 1.7 percent," because their goal is zero. It's zero today, and it's zero for 20 years out. Have you not listened to these people? They're loonies. They're racists. They're eradicateurs. On the off chance you want to coddle them, you should at least be clear about their goals.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Si monumentum requiris ...

Is this actually the funniest news story in the history of the world in space? Or does it just achieve the best balance between earnest adolescent ardor and out-and-out, knee-slapping, single-source, pound-on-the-floor, scare-the-kitties hilarity?

Let's tune in to the second most important tale from Thursday evening at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

The revolution may have started in Tunisia where ongoing protests forced the country's foreign minister to step down Thursday. It then spread to Egypt on Tuesday, taking aim at the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

And now it has migrated to Yemen, where tens of thousands of anti-government protesters demanded Thursday that another U.S. ally step down: Yemen's president, who has held power for 32 years.
Read more »

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everybody PANIC!!! (a slight return)

Whee! This one's downpage at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network as we speak; we'll see if it creeps higher as the cycle wears on. Meanwhile, OMG let's PANIC!!!

A new study shows the world's Muslim population will increase by nearly a billion people by 2030.

According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Muslim population will increase globally by 35 percent in the next 20 years, doubling the number of Muslims worldwide since the start of the century, and twice the global growth rate of non-Muslims.

Starting to hear a tiny ring of familiarity yet? Our second image here is how the story looked in ... why, that'd be October 2009! If you don't pay attention to your own files, you're always going to be at risk of pointing two decades down the road at some ghastly tipping point that, by your own accounting, is already fading in the rearview mirror.

Read more »

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The view from Planet Tabloid

We count on the tabloids sometimes to alleviate the unrelieved solemnity of the American press, but -- that's quite a little fan dance from the Post there, isn't it?

OK, granted. Everything goes better with a little pop-culture reference,* but what in particular is going on with this one? Is it just a fun way of teasing to the Oscar nominations at the bottom of the page, or are we dog-whistling the audience again? Let's ask the nice folks who commented on (entirely unrelated) stories at the Post's fair-n-balanced stablemate over the past 18 months:

he absolutely thinks that he is the king of america!! IMPEACH HIM NOW!!

The King and his followers shall dine on the finest of foods supplied and paid for by the peasants ..... Amateur, corrupt, arrogant userper. Unseal all your records Barry, that would be a thanksgiving treat.


I thought obama sounded and looked arrogant and rude. He wants to be king and I personally am not looking for a king to run my life.

To modify the song title just a bit: You've got to be taught, but you don't have to be very carefully taught at all.

* The News has nothing to do with this post otherwise. It's just there for random fun.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Annals of 'that's what'

This just in from The Ridger at the Slavic affairs desk, who translates:

Авиакатастрофа Ту-154 под Смоленском, в которой погиб президент Польши Лех Качиньский, могла быть подстроена российскими спецслужбами. Об этом в интервью телеканалу TVN24 заявил Марчин Дубенецкий, муж и представитель Марты Качиньской-Дубенецкой, единственной дочери президента, погибшей в катастрофе.

The TU-154 air crash near Smolensk in which Polish President Lech Kaczynski perished, may have been orchestrated by the Russian intelligence service. That's what TVN24 was told by Marcin Dubieniecki, husband and representative of Marta Kaczynska-Dubieniecka, the president's only daughter, who died in the crash.

Good to know we aren't the only country where detail editing is in short supply (as The Ridger points out, Marta didn't die in the crash
.) But what is it that makes "that's what" such a bridge-building example of cross-cultural journalism?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why we (used to) have editors

Let he or she who never let a chunk of "memo mode" -- or notes mode, depending on what your shop called it -- go into print cast the first stone, but we have an awful lot of the usually hidden stuff of daily journalism on display here. That's all the things, starting with about "Monday 1/24 night" in the lede, that look like decisions made but not completed or signals between and among reporters and editors.

(If you're familiar with this part, go on and skip ahead.) A shop might have a rule calling for reporters to mark any source's name with a capital CQ, to indicate that the spelling has been confirmed. (That's what the "1/24" is doing after "Monday" here.) It doesn't take much finger-slippage to let one of those into print, but it's unusual to see as much, with as many stops and starts, as here. Hence it's an interesting look at e
diting values and decisions at the heavily understaffed and undergunned outpost that is today's copydesk.*

Nothing unusual about the lede; except for the "1/24," it's as ordinary an example of straight-up, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust news writing as you can get. If anything, it's a reminder of how readily writers use the passive voice when nobody's yelling at them about it. The second graf is mostly interesting because of the way jargon is negotiated. It avoids "police responded to" but falls for "in regard to." And you get a good idea of how attribution is expected to work; if your first solo shift on night cops was coming up later in the week, you have a good cue for when the attribution is supposed to wait until the second graf.

Third graf's a little more interesting. The commas could be random, but the first one looks like someone gave some thought to deleting "at the scene" (fine; that's the sort of breathless EyeWitness9News stuff that -- whatever you think of Strunk and White -- reminds you that some words are really, really needless). And the space between "man" and the comma before "armed" in the third line -- maybe we tried to avoid repeating too much information while squeezing "armed with a shotgun" down to "from a shotgun." Why that needs the qualifying "reportedly" and the events in the following graf don't (he pointed the shotgun at the neighbor, and that's when the cops shot him) is another signal about how attribution works.

Evidently the editors understand that, because there aren't any signs of tinkering. And from the next graf we get another clue that public-safety argot isn't high on the worry list: The guy the cops shot (the "suspect") was "transported." Yes, the relative clause ought to be set off by a comma.

Don't know what "this tagging wrong" means (that's apparently some relic from after my time), but END NU means that something -- my guess is the last graf -- was added after the story had moved to the desk. Again, it didn't get much attention there.

It's interesting to see the sort of stuff that just slips by, too. How do we know (and why is it relevant) that it was a 42-year-old man who fired the shotgun? If we know how old he was, we know something about who he was; why not his name?

Deride the assembly-line model of journalism as you will; at least it made sure there were people at all the positions along the line. Expecting the copy to edit itself is like expecting the wheels to jump up and bolt themselves to the axles.

* As of this writing, it's pretty much unchanged at the Web site, which ought to be more worrisome.


This should be embarrassing (a slight return)

Q: How do you top a lede like "Sometimes, late at night ..."?

A: First, repeat the assertion! Garnish with "told the Free Press last week." Then add more random hearsay!

Alert readers will note that the graf from the print edition shown here has been improved for online use:

Police have said the suspect was reportedly driving a dark-colored car, possibly a Grand Am. A man who lives in the neighborhood and had contact with the man in custody, said he believed police towed away a black car Wednesday, the day the suspect was arrested.

And the same random comma -- the one between the subject and the predicate -- has made its way into the online lede as well.

It is worth noting that the suspect has been arraigned.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Who is that who says he or she is going to beat them Saints?

I don't know, but he left a subjunctive bullet:

Authorities released surveillance photos today of a man who police said threatened to explode a bomb at an Indepedence Township Kroger pharmacy counter if he were not given Vicodin tablets.

Maybe you could kill a were-prescriptivist with it. Who knows?

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Errors vs. cluelessness

Want to start a pool on how long it takes to see a correction in the Nation's Newspaper of Record?

Soon Mr. Obama approved military exercises in response to the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island that killed 46 people.

If the reference is to the attack on Yeonpyeong in November, no. That's a drastic overstatement, and there are a couple of plausible ways in which it could have come about. Before we get to them, though, it's worth looking at the context in which the mistake came about.

Read more »

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lede of the morning

When you're about to paint yourself into a corner, stop painting:

Enjoying Blues Fest takes good ribbing

FERNDALE — The figure of speech, “when pigs fly,” means that something will never happen. At least one website carries that image a bit further. Can pigs steer, if they do fly? it asks.

The hed primes you for something; I'm not sure what, but it doesn't seem to have much to do with flying or steering. And lose the commas around "when pigs fly."

Folks in Ferndale would have a ready answer to that question: “Of course!”

Read more »


Saturday, January 22, 2011

This should be embarrassing

When a story has gotten this far along the assembly line, there's not much chance a lone copy editor is going to derail it just by pointing out that it's amateurish, irrelevant, ineptly executed and clueless under almost any known approach to journalism ethics. But it would be nice to know that someone had tried.

To sum it up for out-of-towners: There's been an arrest (so far not accompanied by any charges) in a series of rapes in northeast Detroit. That's an important development, and although it's the sort of important development that tends to be handed to news outlets on a silver platter, it's distinctly real news that affects real people. We can even give the police chief credit for summing things up: "What I don’t want lost in all of this is there are seven victims whose lives will never be the same."

Good. I don't want that lost either. But I don't see why it has to entail the Junior G-Man turn we get in print:
Read more »

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Correction of the (middle-aged) month

My disdain for corrections of the form "should have said" is well founded. (At least, I think so, and if you disagree, hit the comment button and have at it.) It has two main components:

First, I don't know whether "should have said" is empirical or normative -- put a bit differently, whether yours is a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Did you screw up one of the facts you reported, or did you say something (or omit something) in a way that annoyed a politically powerful constituency?

More narrowly, even if I know that "should have said" is about a misstated fact, I don't know which one was misstated. In the cutline at hand, what went wrong? Did we misspell a name? Misstate the ages?* Swap the identities? Let's go to the videotape!

Margot Schoeps and Larry Sutherland, 72, enjoy a moment in the center's common room.

That's a lot to screw up in 14 words. Two identities, one age (oh, all right, we didn't really get Larry's age wrong; we just said he looks a couple decades older than he is), and ... what's that? They weren't even enjoying the moment??? They should have been "sharing a laugh"?

For those who have not traveled much in the realms of gold, "shares a laugh with" is the ultimate in cutline cliches. It outranks "gestures as he speaks," "enjoys the mild weather," even "celebrates" when it comes to separating the sheep from the goats. But for maximum reading pleasure, you need to enjoy it in context of the dominant art above:

Rudy Smolen, 86, left, and Margot Schoeps, 88, share a joke ...

Remember, the paper (the correction ran Tuesday) hasn't yet told me what it got wrong -- just what the cutline "should have" said. So what's the failure here? Is every cutline on the page supposed to say "shares a ..."? Or is that only true when every photo on the page contains someone 80 or older?

Takeaway point: Corrections aren't about what should have happened. They're about what did happen. Tell me exactly what you did wrong, then provide the correct information. And never imagine that you can correct an error by sharing a laugh with it.

* Which, by the way, is not a requirement of cutline style -- any more than the cutline is obliged to point out that, in a photo containing one woman and one man, the one with the feminine name is on the left.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You must remember this

Somewhere in French North Africa. A smoky bar full of copy editors. Rick, the owner, approaches his favorite slot.

RICK: Sam, Ferrari wants you to work for him at Lake Superior State.
SAM: I like it fine here.
RICK: He'll let you banish new words every year.
SAM: I ain't got time to banish the ones they're using now.

As a matter of general policy, we don't want to get much in the habit of picking on individual reporters* around here, but -- do you think anyone downtown has noticed what happens when you plug a certain byline and a certain two-word Thurberian phrase into the search function?

Jan. 18
For a man who insisted he didn't need a lawyer, he may be getting more legal help than he's entitled to.

That's what federal prosecutors are suggesting in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear on Christmas Day, 2009.

Jan. 15

Issam (Sam) Hamama may have lied about his ties to Iraqi intelligence, but that didn't make him a full-fledged spy for Saddam Hussein's regime.

That's what a federal jury in Detroit concluded Friday when it acquitted Hamama of working as an Iraqi spy in the U.S. during the 1990s, but convicted him of lying to investigators.

Read more »


Monday, January 17, 2011

Welcome back, Uncle Walker*

If you enjoyed "autoist" vs. "motorist" last month, what do you think about "walker"? What's your first reading: something that helps someone walk, or someone who walks?

I grew up in the "Humble: Happy Motoring" days, and to echo a late-breaking "autoist" comment,** I too get a musty midcentury tang from "motorist." It wouldn't occur to me to use "motoring" for "driving," though it looks perfectly unexceptional in "motoring down the field" and the like.*** I wouldn't say "motorist" has gone obsolete on us yet, but it certainly wouldn't be my first choice in this hed. At a guess, the reason for not using "driver" (the term in the lede) is an exaggerated fear of parroting the lede.

"Walker" is harder to figure out. The lede**** has room for things like "man trying to cross Albemarle Road," but the shorthand I'd use for that is "pedestrian." "Walker" is a fine word (the Nine Walkers couldn't be set against the Nine Riders if it wasn't), but not the one I use for "somebody crossing the street."

How did it get there? Who knows? Space doesn't seem like an issue; substitute "driver" for "motorist," lose the "a" and there's plenty of room for "pedestrian." Sometimes newspapers go into spontaneous fits of language reform. (I can remember a ban at the same paper on the phrase "near miss," on grounds that it meant "nearly a miss" and thus really meant "hit.") So one thing that comes to mind is a lone editor railing against the multisyllabic Latinism of "pedestrian" and declaring that "walker" is the lone good and true term.

More likely, it's just someone working in a hurry and forgetting that the nearest exit could be the one in the row behind you. Other thoughts and observations, as always, are welcome.

* Bonus points if you can fill in the required footnote here!
** Couldn't find the n-gram, though; John, could you try a link again?
*** Motorboat Jones (at Gastonia when I saw him) remains one of my favorite baseball names. "Motorboat" seems to have well outlasted "motorcar."
**** The story has been updated, and the version I used is no longer available. You can still get to the hed by searching the site for "motorist."

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy birthday!

On what planet, with how many purple suns spinning in which direction through the methane sky, is it the third-most-important story in the world when some provincial constabulary decides to yank some redneck's conceal-n-carry permit on grounds that he threatened to indulge in a "shootout" starring a business rival?

Aw, you peeked.

Anyway -- see what we mean about keeping the pivot foot down? It's technically true that the permit was yanked "after" ("during" might be more accurate) a dispute about a bog-standard racist editorial, but it's pragmatically a bald-faced lie, as Fox's lede makes clear:
Read more »


Hed noun prang row playoff shock!

And it looks like those quarterfinal matchups are now set. Tonight in first-round action, we'll see China Toll Dodge Brother vs. Rodent Penis Bite Man. Catch it all on FoxSportsSyntax!


FOY 'pain'

Sometimes it's like being on bird-poop watch at Capistrano, you know?

Once more with feeling: No "Pain at the pump." Ever. Retire it. Shun it. Let not your friends fall into temptation. Upside the head with sticks hit them if necessary.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Born under a bad sign

I like exactly one thing in this whole misbegotten story, and it's in the third graf of the Lexington version shown at top:

Countless people reacted on social networks Friday to the "news" that the stars have shifted alignment, astrologically speaking.

Ta-da! The AP put "news" in quotes, and assorted rimrats had the good sense not to change it. (Even though, with the irony-free innocence that marks the journalistic enterprise, the story in this case appears right above the index's references to Dear Abby and the horoscope itself.) Shall we continue?
Read more »

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Fog on Bay; world cut off

How odd those far-away places with strange-sounding names look when you point the small end of the telescope at 'em!

Let it be noted, of course, that the hed is entirely true. It just picked the wrong sort of thing to be true about. Changes of power in the (rather large) "Arab world" aren't unheard of. As with those pesky changes of power in Europe, though, they're country- and mode-specific. An election in the UK isn't a sign of what the hot-blooded Europeans in the "European world" are up to; it's how the UK changes governments. A military coup in Norway wouldn't be frontpage news because it heralded a change of power in Europe* but because Norway doesn't do coups.

Same deal here (and frankly, you'd expect Richmond, having become the capital of a foreign country 150 years ago this spring, to be a little bit more sensitive on the matter). Changes of power in Syria or Jordan or the KSA would be important for different reasons; this is about something that happened in Tunisia. And, though the sort of thing that tends to become known** as a "Twitter revolution" has happened nearby, it hadn't yet forced an Arab autocrat into exile (uneasy lies the head and all that).

Both are more interesting than the sort of freeze-dried Orientalism that lumps "the Arabs" into a single journalistic mixing bowl. Let's work on that one a bit.

* Come to that, it's hard to imagine most changes of power in Europe being frontpage news in US journalism anymore.
** For better or for worse; I'm not in love with this shorthand, but it seems to be the one that people use (or rail at others for using).


Friday, January 14, 2011

Time for you to leave

How soon the Nation's Newspaper of Record forgets:

The crossword puzzle on Tuesday provided an erroneous clue for 51-Across, seeking the answer “Grasshopper.” The clue should have read, “Term of endearment used by Master Po for young Kwai Chang Caine in TV’s ‘Kung Fu’ ” — not “Term of endearment for the Karate Kid.”

One of the reasons "should have" is bad form for corrections is that we're left unsure what and how much it's supposed to cover. Does "should have" mean that's what was submitted, with the error having been inserted somewhere in-house? Or did Master Po in radio's "Kung Fu" refer to young Caine as "Capybara," thus requiring the distinctions? Or is there some other reason the correction couldn't have simply said "Term of endearment for young Kwai Chang Caine"?


At least it wasn't the dingoes

Today's top headline comes from the BBC, and for fullest reading pleasure you need the caption from the full story too:

Mr Solomon and county officials disputed whether the culprit was a rat or mouse

Again, proper use of the claim quotes could have elevated this from a very, very good hed to one for the ages. (Hat tip to Ed and Picky for checking in last week on the art of the claim quote.) Both parties seem to agree that the case involves a rodent and a penis; in dispute is whether B was bitten or merely scratched by A. Thus the most appropriate way to set off the assertion would be:

Rodent penis 'bite' man may sue

And now back to breakfast!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome to the monkey house

In case you want to see some of the collection from the past few days, enjoy. This is how the world -- a small part of it, at least, that you're probably all quite tired of by now -- looks through the methane clouds of Planet Fox.

I really don't know where to begin with this. I suppose that in some technical sense, it's even more amusing to get a Sarah Palin lecture in the history of political communication than a Sarah Palin lecture in journalism ethics, but -- did no one have the sense to tell this preening moron what the "blood libel" is? Or why and how perfectly her tone-deaf turn captures the wounded self-righteousness of the entire Fox family?

Perhaps we can sum this up with the apologia of the youngest of the NYT's stable of right-wing columnists, Ross Douthat:

From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle Giffords’s political opponents were united in horror at the weekend’s events. There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.

Think so? Let's look over the files:
Read more »


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh, shut up

Q: Could you write a stupider hed than this?

A: Could I write a stupider hed than this? I don't know. I'm a little out of practice. It's going to take a while.

Q: No, I mean could one write a stupider hed than this?
A: I guess. I mean, it'd take a lot of work, but you don't want to rule it out.

Q: Does it have enough exclamation points?
A: No, definitely not. If you're going to pretend it's a regular hed and not a hammer, you want enough exclamation points to fill the second line, as in this example from the old Barricada days:


Q: What if it didn't have any exclamation points at all?
A: It would be marginally but not significantly (p=.13) less stupid.

Q: Isn't that an improvement, though?
A: No, not really.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

'Individuals and statistics'

This seems like a partic- ularly Escher- esque bit of news judgment: People don't understand that a number doesn't necessarily mean anything just because it looks big, so it becomes a frontpage story* because editors don't understand that a number doesn't necessarily mean anything just because it looks big, so people see a frontpage story confirming their suspicions and refuse to believe that the next big number doesn't ... I am he and you are he and you are me and we are all together.

Anyway! These stories** showed up on front pages just in time -- coincidence, or what? -- for the first Bad Science column of the year by the stellar Ben Goldacre:

'Six hundred pregnancies despite contraceptive implant," said the BBC. "500 fall pregnant after having contraceptive implant," said the Express. "Contraceptive implant alert," said the Daily Mail: "Hundreds of women fall pregnant after birth control fails."
Read more »

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War is peace

This is about as close to a direct, out-and-out lie -- to taking publicly available evidence and standing it on its head -- as it's possible to get and still look sort of like journalism. Even the Fair 'n' Balanced Network usually manages to keep the pivot foot down when the ref is looking. I think this one's a genuine departure.

The frontpage presence (it was the No. 2 story Saturday afternoon, behind the Arizona shooting) is a pretty faithful representation of the article inside:

President Obama is putting plans in motion to give the Commerce Department authority to create an Internet ID for all Americans, a White House official told
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sentence(s) of the morning

The most super-important story in the history of the world in space continues to wreak havoc throughout the Midwest, flooding roads, toppling trees and knocking out power to thousands. Quick, diagram this gem from the mainbar*:

Speculated by many fans as Michi­gan’s dream hire to replace fired coach Rich Rodriguez, now the focus official­ly shifts to other candidates.

No, "speculated" doesn't take that sort of object,** making it look even more bizarre as a passive. And it's come delightfully loose from whatever in the main clause it was trying to modify. There's another nice dangler in the last graf:
Read more »

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Shock outrage horror!

And what's the most super-important story of the last few hours over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network? Off to FEMA camps for you, mom and dad; Comrade Education Czar has spot in Big Soviet Kindergarten for Biffski and Jane!

Well, sorta. Stating sometime next month, apparently, passport applications are going to have a space for "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" rather than "father" and "mother" (or "mother" and "father," whichever). You might think you have bigger things to worry about: how's the exchange rate, will the kitties be OK, will the French laugh at your pitiful attempts to order the oven-broiled tractor, are you going to get to your conference in Lebanon with a big old Israeli stamp on the front page of the passport? But that's not how the thinking goes at Fox -- see, when "family groups" are "outraged," we have a story that's worth some staff time and a spot at the top of the front page.
Read more »

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Parser alert

Diagramming party, stand by to lower boats: Who's doing what to whom? Is it "a" term, or is Michigan Man "the" term that Michigan Man misused too often. Or ...

Go read the whole thing online if you must. (The hed online -- "'Michigan Man' is too often a misused term" -- is going into the files as a perfect example of when to discard the "rules" about articles and linking verbs in heds.*) There's a lovely illustration of blind sports provincialism that all you young skaters out there should take to heart:

Bo Schembechler could fire up anybody, anywhere, and at a news conference nearly 22 years ago, he uttered one of the most inspirational sentences of an inspirational life:

"A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!"

That statement encapsulates so much of what makes Michigan special: There is a pride at U-M that you just don't find at many schools.

Abject fawning aside, somebody needs to get out more.

* I really don't care if the "design style" requires two-line heds on columns; put a third line on this one and cut half an inch of deathless prose from the text. Wow, that was tough.)

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Today in really, really bad writing

But first, this word from the HEADSUP-L design desk:

1) Don't make yourself do the same thing twice.

2) Particularly, don't make yourself tease twice.
3) Just don't.

But on to the main course!

As the name "Rodriguez" sails quickly into the sunset, another name comes barreling in, splitting the maize-and-blue waters like a battleship.
Read more »

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Today in bad writing

Yes, he might have. (Then again, you adepts of the Ancient and Mystic Order of the Then-Again Hed will note, he might not have.) But it's a sure bet he wasn't thinking it "when" the wallet was stolen, because he wasn't there. He was trying to pull people out of a building, and he'd left his wallet in his (unlocked) car.

The print version is marginally improved over the online one:

A Dearborn firefighter might have been thinking that no good deed goes unpunished when his wallet was stolen while he was helping with the rescue effort in Wayne last week.

... because the reader isn't left quite as far out to sea as by "the rescue effort in Wayne." But we're still missing the main point. The main justification for writing a second-cycle lede is that there has been a first cycle. This story's new to me. Why not tell it in a way that emphasizes what happened, rather than the writer's facility with cliches?

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Setting the bar high

Four days down, 361 to go, and we've got a candidate for Stupidest Story of the Year!

You know 2010’s top head­lines, but here are the ones you and your buddies will talk about around the water cooler years from now.

Following a bad setup with a worse bet. If there's anything sillier than assuming that the public read the news, it's telling me what I'll be discussing (or "talking about around," if you're feeling prepositional) the water cooler "years from now." Hey, let's see what the local paper thinks I'll be talking about:
Read more »

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hed noun phrase plummet flock mystery

Ready to play "write the lede from the BBC hed," noun phrase joy prang fanciers?

An ambulance technician who chose not to respond to what proved to be a fatal heart attack when he was on a tea break has been told he can keep his job.

I don't know about you, but the claim quotes kinda spoil the purity for me.

US scientists believe fireworks may have caused thousands of birds to fall from the sky over an Arkansas town on New Year's Eve.

Here, alas, the claim quotes contradict the text: However, she stopped short of declaring the mystery solved, saying further tests on the dead birds are planned.

... or at least that's how I read it. British readers, is it in-bounds to use the claim quotes for an assertion that someone isn't actually making?

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Abbreviation of the morning

Um ... one of Noah's offspring put the pigeons next to the kitties?


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Negation of the (old) year

Since it was evidently written before the stroke of midnight, this one goes in the books with the How Can I Keep From Not Singing Award for 2010.

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