Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today in Kenyan Muslim perfidy

The world is gray, the mountains old, the forge's fire is OMG buy GOOOOOOLD and freeze-dried food!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For the communists are coming to take away the last memories of the Reagan Age.

While we're waiting for the apocalypse, we might as well unpack a few things. We're looking not just at the aggregator version of the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, we're admiring the social media version of The Washington Times: "Washington Times Communities, social journalism from independent voices*." So let's see how close we can get to the top Fox Nation headline from the actual story at hand:

A new Cold War is brewing here in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and it has nothing to do with the frigid temperature.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Elusive yellow menace

What's worth the front page today there, Wichita Eagle?

Bigfoot lives.

Well, not really. Actually, not at all.

He apparently doesn’t live a flashy life in Kansas. Here, he stays pretty much undercover and lives more conservatively than say his counterparts in California and Washington state where paparazzi have occasionally snapped photos and videos of the famed elusive beast.

As long as we're putting made-up stories about the Elongated Yellow Monster* on the front page*, could we at least have some commas around, say, "say?"

Sigh. It's becoming painfully clear that our friends at Animal Planet can commandeer a chunk of space from the vigilant watchdog that is the American press pretty much whenever they want**, simply by saying "BIGFOOT!!!!" Please, dear editors: If you can't tell a made-up story when you see one, stay away from those friendly games of chance when the fair arrives in town next summer.

* Initially trapped and identified as such in the wild by Lisa at the Bremner Center, who also shared the story's occurrence in the KCStar
** Do people just not read Daniel Boorstin anymore?

Read more here:

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Saturday, January 26, 2013


Dear Kansas City Star: You're entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own prepositions.

The defendants can be sentenced in a corporate spying case, as the online hed puts it. They can be charged with or convicted of corporate spying. They could even be sentenced for corporate spying. But they can't be sentenced of corporate spying.

Yeah, yeah, the 1A designer painted you into a corner. Find another way to paint yourself out.   

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Please don't feed the stupids

You had to wonder how long it would take before the Fair 'n' Balanced Network announced a War On Guns. On the bright side, it's January, and we have a few months to spare before we have to worry about whether the guns will be with us or with the terrorists in the War On Christmas.

"Disarming America" (the lower screen grab, from Wednesday afternoon), on the other hand, looks like it has the makings of a useful running logo, even though the story beneath it is the sort of cask-strength buncombe you serve with a few drops of distilled water to your closest friends after a long night of proving that the Birchers were right after all.

If you're a regular reader, you're probably not surprised at the idea of Fox inventing stories at the Party's behest. You might, though, find yourself annoyed at the behavior of the rest of the press, which is the point correspondent Barbara Phillips Long raised in a note about this story from PennLive:

"A hot-button issue became veritably explosive this week when President Barack Obama unveiled sweeping reform proposals to gun control and, under executive authority, enacted 23 additional restricting measures."

Ledewise, you might justly complain, that's not so much word salad as assorted prewashed mixed word greens. Of greater concern is the substance; as Barbara put it, "How does a provision that allows the Centers for Disease Control to research gun safety issues 'restrict' anything?"

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And now for the good news!

Discourse analysis is a flavor of content analysis that answers questions about content that isn't there -- say, the social and cultural assumptions that have to be in place for your "objective" evidence to make sense. If you've been wondering why the world drawn by the front pages of the party press* looks so strange, that's one explanation.

Don't be rude, you guys. No doubt Earth looks just as strange to them.

* Chronicled regularly of late by The Ridger.

Monday, January 21, 2013

And the angels sing

I'm prepared to take back a fairly large proportion -- OK, at least a few -- of the less-than-polite things I've said about AP style in recent years, because the AP has finally given the definitive answer that applies in nearly all cases of frantic questions about the split-verb superstition and its friends:

Q. In this sentence, "Federal enhancement grant funds soon will help..." or "will soon help" works better?
Flip a coin. I think the second is closer to conversational speech.

Everybody got it? Next time somebody gets the old undergarments in a wad about where the adverb goes, you say "flip a coin."

There are cases in which it really, really does matter. But they only make sense in light of the 95 percent of cases in which you really could flip a coin.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Those pesky plebeians

It's not just the vulgarity -- is it, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

The Carpetbagger column on Thursday, about Ben Affleck, the director, producer and star of the film “Argo,” misstated the origin of a vulgar and obvious punch line used several times in the movie.

Some newspapers will go ahead and tell you what the punch line was, in case you should recover from the vapors and want to know.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some days it's just too easy

If your breathing apparatus is adjusted for the sort of planet on which Laura Ingraham is an "analyst," today's Big Kenyan Perfidy Tale is probably no surprise to you:

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The White House is fuming at the NRA for using the president's children in its latest ad, but today President Obama surrounded himself with other people's children for his gun control announcement. So is there a double standard here or not?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today in random headlines

Anybody care to take a wild swing at what this BBC hed means?

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Today in visual journalism

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a photo above its headline probably says something about the general zeitgeistliness of the story beneath. In this case, then, what does the Obama-as-joker photo say about "Group to build armed neighborhood fortress"?

The link is to a report at,  an offspring of the Media Resource Center purportedly aimed at those who "put a higher premium on balance than spin." (It seems at last to have reached The Fox Nation as well, though with a slightly different illustration.) The point is roughly the same: Armed loonies are planning an HOA-free community somewhere in the wilds of Idaho in which they can sit around and take "pride in American exceptionalism" together. Plus schools!

What makes this news today is a different question. McClatchy had the story last month (thanks to the Boise paper), and the Colbert Report took a swipe at it last week. The well-attested news value of "timeliness" doesn't seem to be playing much of a role here.*

Why is the Kenyan Muslim usurper's smirk the right way to illustrate a story about Our Freedom Fighters heading off to the hills to await the next remake of Red Dawn? Let's suggest another case of creeping Goldsteinism: If something's wrong with America, it has to be the fault of the chief enemy of the Party, and that'll be the uppity Maoist you see before you.

It's going to be a long four years.

* Dear friends at the New York Times: If you'd like to consider this your cue to start ignoring Matt Drudge and instead return to grownup news-gathering practices, go right ahead.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why does Rupert Murdoch hate America?

The American flag on the nameplate can't fool us any longer. The New York Post has sold out. Not only is half the page devoted to the hellspawn of the very same accursed monarchy the Second Amendment protects us against, but the headlines aren't even written in real American!*

It does remain a bit of a headscratcher: how a bunch of anti-empirical minor-league whingeing about a portrait** of somebody who married onto somebody else's royal family became a story in the first place. Who's ready to explain why it's the story of the day here in the colonies?

* The existential "Fury at ..." is diagnostic; it's perfectly good on its home turf, but that's not how we do things in the colonies.

** Your Editor thinks it's a pretty good example of its kind, but it's clearly been a few years since he visited the National Portrait Gallery.

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What's her last name?

New York City police say an 18th century cannon was found loaded with gun powder and a cannon ball during a routine cleaning at the Central Park Conservancy.

Where did the terrifying weapon come from, Associated Press?

The cannon came from a British Royal Navy Ship, the HMS, circa 1763 to 1780.

As Mister Roberts put it, what's her last name? Because so far, we're stuck with "the His Majesty's Ship." The (ahem) shortened version was posted at quite a few places (the Fair 'n' Balanced Network should think twice the next time it makes fun of libruls and their alleged pathological ignorance of stuff that blows up), though it appears that the AP wrote the story through with a correction and a quote:

The cannon came from a British Royal Navy Ship, the HMS Hussar, circa 1763 to 1780.

"We silenced British cannon fire in 1776 and we don't want to hear it again in Central Park," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

It's an improvement (though "The His" still isn't much of a combination, and "ship" is still a common noun). It should also be a reminder that, even as in the ancient days of print: When you post it, it's yours.

Omit needless

For future reference, no. You can't just take words out at random and expect meaning to same as before you.

The deck refers to a complementized active clause in a quote in the third graf of the lede story:

"The vice president made it clear, made it explicitly clear, that the president had already made up his mind on those issues," NRA president David Keene said following the meeting.

Meaning that when we turn it into a passive for the deck, we do so by saying that the president's mind is "already made up," not that it's "already made." That's what phrasal verbs do. They get their meaning from the unblest union of verb and preposition. You can call the local paper and annouce the date on which you plan to kick off your fundraising drive, but if you expect to be understood, don't say it's the date on which you'll kick the fundraising drive.

There are isolated cases in which the preposition really is useless; "serve up" is how headlines say "serve" if you feel like sounding more colloquial than you really are. "Make" and "make up" can even overlap on matters like making (up) the bed; that seems to be mostly a dialect thing. But on making up the mind -- no. Dropping the preposition is cheating. Don't.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Today in cognitive dissonance

Hey, boys and girls! Let's see if we can help the Fair 'n' Balanced Network answer these adjacent questions from the top stories on the homepage!

First up: Why are so many people avoiding vaccinations?

Two words are at the top of most American’s minds this winter: flu season.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Never heard 'em called that before

Even by the ornate standards of hed-writing that obtain over to The Fox Nation, crushing the old gotchas on live TV seems a little over the top.

If you haven't checked in recently at Fox Nation ("for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship"), enjoy a few of recent vintage:

Christie Goes Thermo-Nuclear on Boehner (1/2/13)
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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not this again

We had such a thorough outbreak of the crazy last year when real polls were in play that -- gee, it almost seemed like bogus polls (at least, among the grownup media) had gone away. Alas, not so:

About 36% of the first 5,800-plus fans who answered a poll said, "Absolutely. I'll be at the Joe for Game 1." Another 38% said, "No, this lockout was the last straw," and 16% said they'd just watch college and minor hockey. Oh, and 10% said they didn't care for hockey in the first place, but thanks for participating.

Just a couple of points:

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Monday, January 07, 2013

Those pesky zeroes

How much ice, Associated Press?

The meteorological administration said Saturday that ice had covered 27,000 square meters (10,500 square miles) of the sea surface by Thursday, the most expansive since 2008 when authorities began to collect such data. The administration expects the ice to continue to grow.

Credit to the Times, which actually reads AP copy before running it. Many others could draw conclusions.


Sunday, January 06, 2013

Capacity for what?

Dear Washington Post: What is this "high-capacity ammunition" you speak of in the lede of the top story on Sunday's front?

You can tell me that everybody knows what you meant, and that's possibly true. But diagram it yourself: the modifiers are pointing right at "ammunition," and nothing in the sentence says anything about the thing that holds the ammunition or feeds it into the weapon.

Accuracy is nice for its own sake, of course, and attention to detail on stuff that's familiar is one way of assuring the audience that you're going to be reliable when you get off into uncharted and sometimes anonymous territory (which the story actually does rather well). But there are cases in which it pays to be particularly careful, because anything you do is likely to be held up by the weasels as evidence of your ignorance, fear and "smug moralism."
Please don't give the clowns an even break.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Tabloid story of the (still-young) year

You should probably just go enjoy this one in its entirety, because perfect examples of the tabloid story -- the sourcing, the breathless shrillness, the painstaking ineptitude -- don't come around too often. But there are a few things to remark on.

For one, there are the claim quotes around "drunkard," an unusually British affectation for a paper that sports an American flag in the nameplate. Do not expect to win a libel suit on this one, kiddies. If you call the guy a "murderer," you've called him a murderer. (Likewise the online hed, 'Boozed-up' plane passenger duct-taped to his seat to stop rampage: sources; the quotes wouldn't save you even if they represented a real quote.)

While we're on the subject of holes you're asking your lawyer to dig you out of? "Drunkard" doesn't mean "somebody who's drunk." Look it up.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

First, biggest, only

Just a reminder that your double-naught copy-editing license allows you to stop and frisk any claim that some person or event is the first, or tallest, or loudest, or longest. As in:

An obituary on Wednesday about Beate Sirota Gordon, who helped write the Constitution of post-World War II Japan, erroneously attributed a distinction to her. She was one of the last living members of the team that wrote Japan’s Constitution — not the last. (At least one other member, Milton J. Esman, is still alive.)

An obituary on Wednesday about the actor Harry Carey Jr. erroneously attributed a distinction to him. He was one of the last surviving members of “a group known informally in Hollywood as the John Ford stock company” — actors whom the director John Ford cast frequently in his films; he was not the last. (At least two other actors who often worked for Ford, Maureen O’Hara and Patrick Wayne, are still alive.)

As a general rule, there is a first and there is a biggest; sometimes there's an only. One time-tested way of keeping errors out of the paper is asking writers to provide a score sheet and a list of runners-up whenever they make such a claim.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

On ledes and banning them

A certain beloved lede has been a regular visitor down at the Kwame Kilpatrick trial:

Unlikable and criminal.

That's how the government has cast over the last three months what it calls the Kilpatrick Enterprise, firing off story after story about alleged extortion and rigged contracts, misused charity funds, hidden cash and lavish lifestyles bankrolled by wealthy businessmen.
(Jan. 2)

First, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick crashed his Christmas party. Then, Kilpatrick never sent him a thank-you note for paying off his nearly $5,000 layaway bill for some suits.

That's what contractor Johnson Akinwusi told jurors in Kilpatrick's public corruption trial Friday, saying he was shut out of city contracts until he did things to make Kilpatrick happy. (Dec. 15)

Bankrupt or not, Christine Beatty is not off the hook for the nearly $85,000 in restitution she still owes the City of Detroit stemming from the text message scandal involving her former lover, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

That's what the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office says in light of news that Beatty, Kilpatrick's former chief of staff and mistress, has filed for bankruptcy in Georgia.
(Dec. 4)

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Run awaaaaaaay!!!!

All right, sports fans, who's ready to help The State out with The Answer to The Question posed by The Centerpiece here?

The choices that will better define who we are – and who we want to be ...
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