Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rocky Road

We can conclude a couple of things from this blurb:

1) Downstyle is Better Than Upstyle
2) We do not need a private-sector naming system for winter storms

If you know enough about that strange new habit to recall that the most recent winter storm was named Q, you can probably get "Winter Storm Rocky" as a noun phrase modifying "road closures." If not, you can be forgiven for getting things mixed up with ice cream. Either way, it's hard to see why the name of the thing, real or not, is supposed to be more attention-getting than "road closures" -- or piles of snow, or howling blizzard winds, or anything else that your poor audience might find interesting.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And your Delta name is ...

Strayhorn shares this from the Old Hometown TV Station (well, at least right down the road from it). If you too are wondering whether the sailboat was waving its arms about and gasping -- yes, sometimes it's all right to be a little prescriptive.

No, they're noooooooootttttt

Q: What could be worse than the return of "pain at the pump"?
A: A cliche on top of a cliche followed by a pointless simile!

They’re drilling, baby, drilling
– and gas prices still going up

They’re baaaacccck. Like locusts ravaging fertile crops, gasoline prices are soaring again and eating away at the purchasing power of ordinary Americans. And again, financial speculators appear to be a big part of the story.

See how much easier life gets if you simply delete the cliche as soon as you write it? No need to worry about where to place a hyphen to get the sing-sing effect, no worries about whether the vowels are supposed to go "aah" or "AAAAAAAAAAAAAA," no messy string of consonants that shouldn't be repeated, more time to think about getting rid of the locust bit and telling us what your story's about in the first place!

Read more »


Monday, February 18, 2013

We come in peace

Boring conversation, anyway.

(h/t Lisa at the Bremner Center)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Now that's just making stuff up

The Fair 'n' Balanced Network stands apart from its more enthusiastic right-wing stablemates in one important way: When the fiction referee is looking, it almost always has its pivot foot down. No matter how stacked the deck or bizarre the proposition, there's usually a source or a reference somewhere in a Fox story that makes the headline at least technically not-false.* When Fox tells you that "critics question" some action or inaction of the Kenyan Muslim usurper, the critics might be paid Fox contributors, but they are critics, and they are questioning, and there you are.

Here, though, Fox is just out-and-out lying. No, homework hasn't been canceled on Wiccan and Pagan holidays.** That's partly because it hasn't been canceled on any other holidays either, but it's mostly because Fox is simply  -- well, you know, making stuff up.

Students at University of Missouri don't need to cram for exams that fall on Wiccan and Pagan holidays, now that the school has put them on par with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukah.

Read more »

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Which is it, young fella?

The Fair 'n' Balanced Network seems to have found a way around the AP's metric issue (below): Use 'em both!

The newer hed (captured around 9:20 a.m. Eastern) also manages to promote Chelyabinsk (pop. ~1.1 million) from village to city, though how something that "shattered about 18-32 miles above the ground"* managed to "hit" the village (or city) goes unexplained. Any day on which your homepage also features "Crippled Carnival ship reaches Alabama port," "Gal pal model took four bullets" and "Why is Homeland Security buying so many bullets?" is clearly a busy one.

* The story itself also puts Chelyabinsk's population in seven figures. When you can say "terror from above," o
nly the weak read the story before writing the hed.

Labels: , ,

If 10 was 11

It's easy to put a foot, or a finger, wrong in trying to convert those pesky metric measurements to real American ones, but converting tons to tons does seem a bit like painting the lily -- especially when 10 turns out to be 11.

This one's fairly widespread, suggesting that it started with the AP.* Here's the version from the WashPost:

The trail of a falling object is seen above a residential apartment block in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more.

I expect someone at the AP simply opened the stylebook to the metric conversion chart (p. 166) and followed the rule -- "Normally, the equivalent should be in parentheses after the metric figure" -- for converting metric tons to short tons. As Lawrence said of transliteration systems, that's really helpful if you already speak AP. The rest of the world is justified in being a little confused.

* Though it obviously persisted through the minimal sort of processing that agency copy gets these days at individual US websites; the screen grab from the N&O was provided by Strayhorn in the Triangle buro.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Claim quote 'of the decade'

Advice from British readers eagerly solicited here. I don't think any of the constituents of the Mail's claim quote hed above are by themselves out of bounds, but I've never seem so many of them stacked together in such a way.

I found this one through Drudge, which didn't bother with attribution at all. (Guys, try not to make life in the editing classroom any trickier than it is, OK?) Those keeping up with the ongoing collision of electronic media with law, policy and practice might also be interested in the latest from the Dearborn McDonald's case.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Elongated calorie-laden fruit

Q: How do you top "the calorie-laden treats" in the lede?
A: With "the 400-calorie delicacies that tout 25 grams of fat" in the third graf!

Q: Not powdered sugar?

A: OK, powdered sugar too.


On minds and reading them

Some thoughts on determining and announcing the scope of a news story:

1) Don't talk about what "stuns the world" or doesn't unless you've polled the world

2) You haven't

Considering that in separate stories on the front, we have:

With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in six centuries, stunning the world Monday by announcing his resignation and leaving the troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter.

The news stunned the cardinals and Catholics from Michigan to Europe to South America and beyond. And with no clear favorites to succeed him, another surprise likely awaits the faithful when the cardinals gather to elect Benedict’s successor next month.

Holland, 72, like Catholics worldwide, was stunned Monday when Benedict announced he would resign Feb. 28 for reasons of health and stamina.

... you could be forgiven for detecting signs of autopilot anyway and thus banning "stun" for at least the next few days. But more broadly, if you feel the need to declare the planet "stunned" by some event or another, that might be a sign unto you that it's a big enough deal to spare the tiresome hyperbole.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

You have the right to remain silent

Looks like one shortcut too many over at the BBC science desk:
Read more »

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Today in agenda-setting

You can learn a lot about what a story's supposed to be by looking at the stories it's supposed to be like -- here, the sidebars accompanying the afternoon's No. 2 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network.

The AP thumbsucker makes sense, but when you get to "USDA Sets New Standards" (glossed at The Fox Nation as "Obama unloads 160 pages of school snack regulations") and "More Americans Delaying Retirement," you get a clearer picture. This isn't a Second Amendment package, it's a Kenyan Muslim Perfidy package: the usurper is coming for your guns and your potato chips!

In agenda-setting terms, the first thing that comes to mind is issue salience. The brain is a busy place; it has a limited carrying capacity for issues, and -- quite reasonably -- we take a lot of cues from what we read and see about which issues to pay attention to and how to rate them. At the first level of agenda-setting, where the media's ranking of issues inspires a public ranking of those issues, Obama's devilry has been back and forth with Iranian Peril and Missing Moms all day.
Read more »

Labels: , ,

Elongated ... no, don't

"Edgy eateries," you say?

Some days, if you ask me what I teach, I say "journalism." Others, I say "communication." This one seems to be taking shape already.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 01, 2013

All you can eat

High on the list -- really, really high on the list -- of names you should be at pains to spell correctly would be, oh, the guy who's just bought your newspaper.* One gathers that the lesson has sunk in at Greensboro.**

Mr. Buffett is rich enough to have a sense of humor, I hope. Maybe this will bring home to him that in the Global War on Editing, you're either with us or you're with the tourists.

* First noted by Charles Apple over at the ACES mothership.
** I wouldn't have gone with "Buffett media" as shorthand for "BH Media Group," either. "Buffett group" would have been better. Hope they weren't arguing over that when the blunder sailed through.

Labels: , ,

Not very

I was thinking "about as accurate as tossing a coin," but that seems unfair to the coin:

According to National Weather Service statistics for southwest Pennsylvania over the past 20 years, Punxsutawney Phil's record is 4 wins, 5 losses, and 11 ties.

Does that mean he's right 20 percent of the time? Let's plunge ahead:

Read more »

Labels: , ,