Monday, February 24, 2014

Today in 'Ask the Editor'

Q. I am writing material that requires Imperial dimensions with parenthetical metric dimensions. Would I write "the 60-foot-tall (20-meter) tree" or "the 60-foot (20-meter) tall tree"? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sun, Feb 23, 2014
A. The 60-foot-tall (20-meter) tree ...

Dear Charlotte: Neither of the above. A 60-foot tree is about 18.3 meters (18 if you use the feet-to-meters conversion on page 170 of your AP Stylebook, which is a little less accurate than its meters-to-feet counterpart).

Practically, your audience is likely to default to height if that's the only number you mention, so "the 60-foot (18.3-meter) tree" would be fine. But if your style is picky enough to demand both measurements, it's picky enough to tolerate a little arithmetic and a decimal point.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Seen one, seen 'em all

How's that Radio Yerevan impression coming along, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

A picture caption on Thursday with an article about the consequences of a global borrowing frenzy misidentified the building that was shown. The photograph was of a steel mill southeast of Moscow, not of a residential compound under construction in Wuhan, China.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oh, stop it

A suggestion for the Foremost Newspaper of the Carolinas: Should you want people to think that you actually live there, and that you're not just puttin' on a front to baffle the rubes, don't save your g-droppin' for the "wow, that's so SOUTHERN!" stories. Come to that, don't save your g-droppin' for nothing at all. It's annoying and stupid. Stop it.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hed of the week: Don't let the games not begin

Somewhere in the twilight between claim quote and paraphrase, the remarkable Daily Mail Online manages to make a perfectly adequate quote both longer and, um, exactly backward:

'Nobody has to stand centre ice in front of a million people and put an entire career on the line for eight minutes of their life when they've been doing it for 20-some years,' he said, after placing eighth in the free skate for an overall 12th position between the two programmes.

'And if you think that that's not hard, then you're a damn idiot.'

I'm actually starting to see a competitive advantage in the Mail's hed stylings. You really do have to read the whole story to figure out what's going on in the display type.


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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Today in cognitive dissonance

What are you supposed to make of the latest in Iranian maritime skulduggery, anyway: wave the flag a little harder, or buy more GOOOOLD and freeze-dried food for the survival bunker?

First up is the Fair 'n' Balanced Network's top story from Feb. 8:

A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.

Which, if you're scoring along at home, is more or less the same AP story Fox ran on Jan. 21:

Two Iranian warships set sail Tuesday for the Atlantic Ocean on their navy's first-ever mission there, state TV reported.
Read more »

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

There's one born every minute

If you haven't seen the "scary market chart" yet, maybe you should look in now that it's, um, "gaining traction":

There are eerie parallels between the stock market’s recent behavior and how it behaved right before the 1929 crash.

That at least is the conclusion reached by a frightening chart that has been making the rounds on Wall Street. The chart superimposes the market’s recent performance on top of a plot of its gyrations in 1928 and 1929.

The picture isn’t pretty. And it’s not as easy as you might think to wriggle out from underneath the bearish significance of this chart.


Easier than it looks, actually, if you're used to wiggling out from under the rock of -- oh, random stuff that looks like stuff you want it to look like. Remind us again how we're supposed to distinguish the fearless reporting of the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch from any other incarnation of strange resemblances meant to scare the rubes?

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

Want to ban some words? Here are two

Here's an idea: Next person that wants to use "flip-flop" in the mediated presentation of American political discourse has to buy an ad for it.

The Herald's presentation here represents a collision of two basic news ideologies; the mandate to be impartial and dispassionate runs into "shun euphemism and tell it like it is." In this case, the wrong one wins, and the candidate who's doing the pandering comes off better for it:

Republican Gov. Rick Scott pounced on Crist’s latest Cuba remarks.

“Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy,” Scott said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. “That is not true in Cuba and we should not pretend it is. The importance of maintaining the embargo is that it stands for the Cuban people's right to be free.”

Allow a normative suggestion from your editor here. Sometimes political elites change their stances on public issues for craven, self-serving reasons. Sometimes they have better reasons: The evidence changes, the cultural context in which evidence is interpreted changes, a family member falls in love with someone of the wrong hue, whatever. Rather than bellowing "FLIP-FLOP," that's the sort of decision we should actually let audiences make up their own minds about.

Don't we have some sort of duty to the public here, though -- some mandate to point out when a flip-flopper is flip-flopping, on grounds that he (or she, a condition the article distinctly fails to take into account) might do so again? Well, sort of. But it might be more productive to ask: Why? Is there something else he's going to stop being stupid about in the immediate future?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Slug wha?

I'm completely at a loss here. Would somebody down at Charlotte care to check in and tell us what you had in mind by "slugs on"?

Nearest I can figure is some flavor of "slog on," which seems completely out of tune with where the story's going. But maybe you kids have something in your dialect these days that's simply going past the old folks.

And the cutline? OK, granted, cutlines aren't supposed to leave much to the imagination, but if you really, really think you have to point out that Ed Sullivan is the one at "center," maybe you shouldn't be putting stories like this on the front page in the first place.


Somewhere in this favored land, a copy editor is one square closer to New York Times Bingo:

An article on Page 22 this weekend about the nation’s first Muslim fraternity misspells, in some instances, the surname of the founder of the chapter at the University of California, San Diego. He is Rumzi Khan, not Kahn.

I give up. Somebody else can come up with the Kahn/Khan hed this time.

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Aw. go for the hat trick

With only one sighting on Friday morning, it looked for a bit as if we might get through the opening events with minimal "Let the games begin."

Well, silly us. Not only were the folks downtown holding it back for Saturday, but they had a "From Russia, with love" for the sports page too.

Come on, you guys. Couldn't you work an "it's official" into that downpage slot occupied by "Games officially kick off"? At least we get free curly fries with the hat trick.


Friday, February 07, 2014

Forbidden ledes

Looks like this one is spreading among the crime reporters downtown.

Remember, kids: Only you can prevent Forbidden Ledes. 


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dawn of the Stupid Questions

You do have to wonder what The Daily Herald thought would be a likely answer:

Compared to what?

The story, at least judging from the deck, has nothing to do with whether guns and pot "mix." It's about whether a medical marijuana law will require potential patients to "voluntarily surrender" their CCW permits and remind caregivers that they shouldn't have guns, subject to, you know, something.

Please. Given the choice between telling me something and asking me something, err on the side of providing information.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Tab hed merge row 'widening gyre'

Might as well just turn Old Glory upside-down in the nameplate there, New York Post. No real American rimrat would have referred to the recently departed actor as "Seymour Hoffman" in a hed. Especially since none of the Post's stories on the matter seem to use anything but "Hoffman."

Why this assumption about appropriate second references for men known by three names is so British-sounding is still a mystery (and thanks to all who checked in with observations last time it came up). It does seem to work best with middle names that could go either way -- even the Sun probably wouldn't call Jim Ed Brown "Ed Brown" in heds. But apparently you guys over there think we're up to something over here that, in general, we aren't.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

War on Us

In case you've been wondering, this is what the War on Christmas does the other 10 months of the year: Somewhere, somehow, from some unexpected angle, they are coming to take away everything we hold dear. In this case, it's a decision by a small Baptist college in Wisconsin to stop calling its sportsball teams the Crusaders. At Planet Fox, that's pretty serious -- worth not just the No. 3 spot Sunday (top) but the No. 4 spot on Friday* (below). Shall we see why?

A Christian college in Wisconsin is dropping its “Crusaders” nickname after nearly 50 years, claiming the moniker has become outdated in a “more global society,” university officials told

Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown and its Division III athletic teams have used the name since its founding in 1968. Matt Davis, the university’s executive vice president, said no complaints have been received by the school and stressed that it coincides with its name change from Maranatha Baptist College in December.

What's the craven Marxist dhimmi trying to hide, Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

... He does not expect the university’s decision to prompt other colleges to consider replacing the nickname elsewhere.
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Saturday, February 01, 2014

When in doubt, bet the null

Shore up our confidence there, Miami Herald

The sewage czars of South Florida have got your backside on Super Bowl Sunday.

Their mission: To make your toilet bowl flush properly during the big game.

So many people use the john just during halftime and after the game that water pressure at Miami-Dade County’s three wastewater treatment plants can drop to fearfully low levels.

Sigh. You can either head straight for the nice list of "Super Bowl legends" at or you can reason it through on your own:

Read more »

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