Thursday, August 29, 2013

Traffic and weather next

Maybe you guys should just stick to the traffic reports, huh?

DETROIT (WWJ) - It’s back-to-school season and many Detroit teachers are struggling in the wake of budget cuts and overcrowded classrooms.

According to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, the average teacher spent at least $485 on school supplies for their classroom last year.

Ready for the buried lede?

So, what are some Detroit women doing to offset their struggles in the classroom? Well, they’re becoming “sugar babies” of course —  seeking financial assistance from wealthy men online.

Ready for the methods section?

In the Detroit School District alone, more than 200 teachers are moonlighting as sugar babies to offset wage cuts and job losses, according to dating website How do they know? The website tallied up all the females registered in Detroit who list “teacher” as their occupation.

Uh, OK. And we stumbled on this world exclusive ... how?
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At the fiction factory

Hey, kids! Want to work for an awesome "24-hour news publication" like The Daily Caller? Let's warm up with a little exercise in getting a story from the provincial press ready for national distribution (as you can see at right, your work could soon be picked up at The Fox Nation and many other reputable organizations if you pay attention).

Here's your lede:

Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

Now see if you can answer these questions:
  • What did the students say "tastes like vomit"?
  • Whom did they address in making this complaint?
  • How often is Michelle Obama mentioned in the Daily Enterprise's story?
 Let's see how your answers stack up with what the pros do!
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In case you were wondering ...

Yes. They really, really do think that way.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Are you ready for the big leagues?

Further to Ed and Picky's discussion below, here's a genuine tabloid hed (Boston Herald 2008; a lovely vintage). Can you tell who's doing what to whom? If you can, without peeking, you could be ready for a tryout on Planet Tabloid!
the ex-Centerfolds dancer who had a two-night stand with Yankees cheater Alex Rodriguez, was the waitress on duty at the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown when five men were gunned down in 1995. - See more at:
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

In the land of the tabloids

Nothing on here really qualifies as a noun pile, strictly speaking, but it's still impressive by US tabloid standards: four chunks of display type, and not a verb in the bunch:

Shock Murder Claim
Diana Slay Plot
Scotland Yard Probe
Exclusive Author Interview

"Exclusive" is a well-established newspaper noun, but I'd score it as an adjective here, which is something like a single in the top of the 10th after nine perfect innings. Otherwise, we're all nouns, all the time.

All the pesky grammar is over and above the question of why the Most Super-Important Story in the World for Post readers is the, ahem, Crown-endorsed MI6 death-by-Fiat plot to take Diana down for her plans to destroy Prince Charles by "releasing embarrassing information about his sexual peccadillos."

You just never know what you're getting when you sample a Murdoch product, do you?

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two Minutes Hate

Ready for today's Fair 'n' Balanced News Quiz?

a) How many times is the feckless Kenyan usurper mentioned in the version of the story at Fox?
b) How many times is he mentioned in the WSJ original?
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Noun pile of the week

If you've been staying in practice with your British noun piles, this one shouldn't be a problem, but just in case, here's the BBC:

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Today in visual framing

Were you really wondering about how images complement information in the Brave New World of "new media"?

No, probably not.

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That's kind of why it's "news"

We haven't checked in on the dominant local fishwrap's "it's official" tally since -- why, since the same reporter wrote about the same radio personality back in May. Let's see what the staff has been up to since then:

It’s official: As promised, Alex Rodriguez has appealed the 211-game suspension that was to have started today. (Aug. 8)

It's official: Spartans hire Curtis Blackwell to oversee recruiting (Aug. 2)

It's official: Oakland University is a member of Horizon League (July 2)

It’s official: Kid Rock will step on stage Aug. 20 and propel himself into Detroit’s record books. (June 19)

It's official: M. Roy Wilson new president of Wayne State University
(June 5)

What, you have to wonder, could be the appeal at this point of "it's official"? Will someone please just stop?

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Stopses and friskses

Q. What is the plural of "stop-and-frisk" when referring to multiple searches under that policy? Is it "stop-and-frisks," "stops-and-frisks," or "stops-and-frisk?" – from Storrs, Conn. on Mon, Aug 12, 2013
A. On first reference, stop, question and frisk policies or actions. On second reference, AP uses the shorter form, stops.

Some days it's hard to see how our friends at the AP even open the e-mail without dissolving in howls of derisive laughter (stopses and friskses, gollum gollum gollum). Really? "The latest in a series of stops-and-frisk involved a delivery driver bringing an order of Whoppers Junior to the inspectors general"? Still, it's a chance to let a style question produce a suggestion or two about style sanity, which is why the AP's answer is so useless.

Nobody in the editing audience would be surprised to find that the AP doesn't read its own stylebook. Or, probably, that the AP doesn't even read its own copy, because the answer above -- like it or not, and I don't -- bears no resemblance at all to what the AP actually does. Today's lede (filed well after the question was posted) is one example: 

NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's largest police department illegally and systematically singled out large numbers of blacks and Hispanics under its controversial stop-and-frisk policy, a federal judge ruled Monday while appointing an independent monitor to oversee major changes, including body cameras on some officers.

That sentence would produce a sensible style rule: A preposed compound modifier that needs a conjunction -- "your sink-or-swim attitude really yanks my chain" -- probably ought to be hyphenated. (The clumsy NP "stop, question and frisk actions" is, thankfully, pretty rare, and at a quick Lexis glance, doesn't show up in AP texts at all.) But the AP isn't doing very well at settling on a style, as illustrated by this first-reference plural from May 3:
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Sunday, August 11, 2013

No, but thanks for asking

Or perhaps "apparently, for some values of 'ready'."

See what happens when you go out of town for a couple days?* The Great Cliches are loose again and ravening for delight, and nobody wants to stop them. (To the surprise of almost no one -- can we have a show of hands out there? -- they're accompanied by stupid puns on players' names, and if your first guess at the cutline verb for the photo shown here is "celebrates," take a victory lap.)

As a reminder, then: Heds including the phrase "ready for some football?" are permanently banned, under all circumstances, forever and ever amen. Nor shalt thou ever be amused enough by the sort of plays you can make on people's names to put one in a headline. And no cutline unto the end of time shall ever say "celebrates" (or "reacts," or "looks on," or "gestures while he speaks") again. If some part of that is unclear, leave a comment, and someone on the staff will be right with you see that you are left on the midden for the wolves.

* Saw some but not nearly enough of the Philosophy School gang, did lots of Service to the Profession and Academy, saw too little of the old native city, presented the empirical version of some earlier posts.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Man editing tiger

Q. I'm confused. In one case, you say you are inclined not to use a hyphen for "copy editing symbols." Then a few entries later, you say to include a hyphen for the compound modifier "copy-editing experience." In both cases, "copy-editing" is a compound modifier. So what is the rule? – from Tallahassee, Fla. on Mon, Aug 05, 2013
A. The first is a noun phrase, no hyphen. The second is a compound modifier with a hyphen.

How many correct answers our friends at the AP could have provided:
  • Got us! Five hundred points to Rymratdor, or whatever. We owe you a beer, dude
  • This is a news agency, not a centuries-old seat of religious learning. You want a different rule, write your own rule
  • Yeah, good point. Whatever you do to the first one, do that to the second one too
  • Do we contradict ourselves? Very well then
  • OK, why not try it as one word?
Instead, we end up with a "rule" that's meaningless, mostly because it tries to make a technical distinction under which the two terms it distinguishes are, um, indistinguishable.

True, "copy editing" is a noun phrase: Copy editing is fun! So is "copy editing symbols"; it can be an object (a list of copy editing symbols) or a subject (Copy editing symbols drive journalism students nuts), but it's still a noun phrase. So is "copy-editing experience." So, for that matter, is "the copy-editing experience entailed by this year's take on your annual Thanksgiving column," and when you combine it with the VP "cost me half a millimeter of right molar, thanks," you have a sentence.

When it comes before a noun, like "symbols" or "experience," "copy editing" is also a compound modifier. Several such compounds are usually hyphenated: noun-adjective (wine-dark sea) and noun-participle (man-eating tiger), for two. Style guides from Fowler through the AP remind us that hyphens aren't there for decoration but for meaning; they're how we tell deep blue water from deep-blue water.

If you want to read "copy editing" as a noun phrase rather than a noun-participle combination, it's as much a noun phrase in one example as the next. It's equally a compound modifier in both cases. There's no consistency in hyphens, true,* but if you can't have a little consistency in how you describe your grammar, the reader might conclude that all that copy-editing stuff is just smoke and mirrors anyway. And thus is another hill lost in the War on Editing.

* Why the OED hyphenates "ice-cream cornet" but not "ice cream cone" is one for the nearest sphinx. (To this day, though, there are shops that insist on hyphenating "ice-cream cone.")

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Bridle suite

What's new on the Winslow Homer front, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An art review on Friday about “Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History,” at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., misstated, at one point, part of the title of a Homer work on display. As the review correctly noted elsewhere, it is “The Bridle Path, White Mountains,” not “The Bridal Path, White Mountains.”

Friday, August 02, 2013

Editing quiz

Hey, all you copy editors out there with a few spare moments at the beginning of the shift! Any suggestions for the Fair 'n' Balanced Network about the homepage hed play on this story?

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On making stuff up

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear -- specifically, the late innings of the 2012 presidential campaign, when somehow it became all the rage in (ahem) some circles to declare that any quantitative data you found unpleasant had been baked. The polls were crooked, and long-established gubmint surveys were being fabricated at the order of the Kenyan usurper and his cabal of Chicago street thugs.

Let's look in on a slightly less spittle-flecked version of those claims: even if the numbers are valid, the craven librul media will spin them on command from Kenya Chicago the White House. We had some questions at the time about the assertions of directional bias made by Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy* studies for the American Enterprise Institute (and, by some wild coincidence, a Romney adviser). Here, he's discussing the two main Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys on employment, reported the first Friday of each month: the "household" survey, which produces the percentage called the unemployment rate, and the "establishment" survey, which tracks nonfarm payroll employment (expressed as jobs added or lost):
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Man eatin' tiger

Dear New York Post: If you must make junior-high-level puns on people's names, and if you must commit your g-droppin', and if you must refer to your candidates by given name on second reference -- would you at least be so kind as to provide the hyphen that lets us distinguish a Scotsman eating blancmange from a Scotsman-eating blancmange?

Thank you.
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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Well, which is it, young feller?

Isn't it nice when there's a copy editor to remind you of how things stand in the world at large? Say, if you work at the Washington Times and you need just the right context for a 1A story:

Deploying the rhetoric of class warfare against congressional Republicans, President Obama warned Wednesday* that “social tensions will rise” if Washington doesn’t take steps to reverse the growing gap between wealthy Americans and the middle class.

"Class warfare" fits right in, but still -- could it have been just two weeks ago that the same reporter broke a major exclusive about ...

President Obama is known for choosing his words carefully, and one of the words he rarely chooses to utter in public is “poverty.”

With more than 46 million Americans living in poverty, and people relying on food stamps at record levels, the president also talks infrequently about “the poor” in his speeches and public comments. Compared with his predecessors, Mr. Obama is far more likely to speak about the “middle class” when promoting his agenda.
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