Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Today in visual journalism: 'Dive bar stock photo'

Quick, what's the best way to get a little free publicity for your website? Make a list of "the NN most RR in ZZ" and wait for some news director to say "Hey, we made the list!"

Leave aside the obvious -- how the judging is done, and whether something called is going to have the same operational definition of "dive" that you or Raymond Chandler or the Bottle Rockets might have. Gaze upon the cutline:

"Dive bar stock photo."

And as 2014 draws to a close, the best a news operation can do to illustrate a PR person's idea of a dive bar is a filer of somebody else's idea of a dive bar. Divewise, these are trying times.

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Words to banish and peeves to ignore

No, not really. Actually, not at all. The only people who might have been suh-prised by this hed choice would have been the ones who didn't read Tuesday's paper:
... or  the Dec. 8 issue, or pretty much any issue during draft season or the hockey playoffs. At least "Suh-perb" works phonetically, kind of, a little bit, for what that's worth.

Funny how this coincides with the annual dose of free peevological publicity for the cousins at LSSU and their list of Banished Words. Granted, I thought it was a waste of time -- theirs, mine and that of journalism students everywhere -- for the AP gang to add "polar vortex" to the 2014 Stylebook, but that's because the best way to send "polar vortex" to the snow heap of history is to ignore it. Having never heard "cra cra" in the wild,* and having never heard "bae" at all,** I don't see the point in peeving about what Those Kids are doing when Those Kids don't seem to be doing it within earshot of the classroom or office.***

Those Grownups, on the other hand -- let's start by banning all sports heds that play off athlete's names? (Name pun heds in general need to be Foot Heads Arms Body-caliber to escape.) Everybody should already have access to the Forbidden Holiday Terms; might as well add "Are you ready for some football?" to the list. For cutlines, we have "celebrates," "shares a laugh with" and "smiles as he [VP]."

In text, anything that sounds like it should be among the Magic Phrases of Journalism: "limped into port," "flatly denied" or "told the Free Press in a wide-ranging interview." And -- has it really been more than two weeks?

No Bob Bashara, no jury deliberations.

That's what it's come to in court this week as jury deliberations in the Grosse Pointe Park man's high profile murder trial have been put on hold indefinitely because of a mysterious illness that's landed Bashara in the hospital.

Yes, Virginia, there is a War on Editing. Knock it off, you peevers, and get back on the guns.

* Like Google, my first question is: "Did you mean "cray cray"? I'd hyphenate it, too.
** Except as a proper name, which doesn't seem to be what LSSU had in mind.
*** Or of Language Czarina's, and she sees a lot more of them than I do.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

And until we start electing vampires ...

... or other unearthly creatures, that situation is likely to continue. I mean, consider the alternatives.

You can see -- I guess, marginally, at the holidays -- why the LATimes decided to spend a little time writing about stupid misperceptions, but it's hard to see what makes it a frontpage story anywhere else. (That'll be you, Lexington Herald-Leader.) If you're wondering why The Media always seem to be caught by surprise at what those other 190-odd countries are up to, one reason might be that nobody who puts 1A budgets together thinks anything short of a coup or earthquake is interesting.

Don't you think that looks tired?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Today in framing: A slight return

Speak of the devil and he will surely throw something into the archive that ought to have been in the literature review you just submitted. Here's the No. 2 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network on Sunday morning:

A sampling of emails set to be released by Jeb Bush from his years as Florida governor provides a glimpse of how he handled a range of high-profile issues -- from the state to the international level.

The emails to staffers and residents show how he dealt with such issues as the 9/11 terror attacks to the contentious 2000 Florida recount vote that decided the presidential election for brother and Republican nominee George W. Bush.

Bush said 11 days ago that he would release 250,000 emails, presumably to show Americans his leadership ability in times of crisis. The promise was part of a larger announcement that he will “actively explore” a 2016 White House bid.

Was it only yesterday that -- well, of course it was.


Hearing aids

What made the routine special, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

Because of a transcription error, an interview with the comedian Jim Norton on Page 36 of the special “Lives They Lived” issue this weekend quotes incorrectly from his comments about Joan Rivers. In discussing a Rivers comedy routine, he said in part, “It was AIDS jokes” — not “age” jokes.

Here's the paragraph in question, if you're wondering whether there should or shouldn't have been enough social-cultural context to raise the flag:

I went and saw her at the Cutting Room here in the city. And it’s the only time I ever watched her perform live. A hundred people was all it sat; it was a small room, and she’d work on her material. She had a few notes on the floor, just bouncing around ideas. And — I’ve said this before she died — it’s the most barbaric set I have ever seen a comedian do. And I mean more than Pryor, more than Kinison. It was AIDS jokes, it was 9/11, and I mean really, really harsh jokes. I loved her so much for that. There was not one moment when you watched her where it’s like, Oh, she feels bad about this. It was so pure.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

We'll pass over that for now

OK, it's true. You do sometimes have to run clueless stuff because it's produced by your own reporters. But you really don't have an obligation to run clueless stuff by other people's reporters just so you can use a movie still to drive up traffic:

God is a whale of a storyteller. From the Garden of Eden to the Great Flood to the resurrection of Christ, he’s got the best material.

Yes, and just wait until you get to the part where the lamb opens the seventh seal.

So it’s no wonder that religious themes have dominated the arts for centuries, from the first fireside odes to the new film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Read more here:
Not sure we have the causal relationship in the right order there, but do go on.

Yet in Hollywood, where the prevailing god is called Moolah, Bible stories have drifted in and out of fashion. After World War II, when the movie industry was threatened by an infidel called television, the studios responded with big-screen religious epics: “Samson and Delilah,” “The Robe, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Read more here:
If your critic really did sleep through all the interesting parts of his Intro to Film History class, you can probably have the 1923 version of "The Ten Commandments" in your queue by the time you get back from the fridge with a beer. One Canadian site lists seven versions of "Samson and Delilah" from the silent era alone. As a general principle of communication study, you should just assume that people will use any new technology for preaching just as quickly as they use it for porn, if not sooner. But you were saying ...

In “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur,” square-jawed Charlton Heston was the embodiment of Christian might.

Um -- do you guys know who Moses was? Just checking.

... Will history remember “Exodus” as one of the great religious-themed movies? God only knows.

And having thus actually subtracted from the sum of human knowledge -- Forget flood. Interview Moses. 

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Today in framing

Well, duh. It's not "sucking up" if your own reporter does it! Here's the top of Friday's No. 2 story:

Governors come and governors go, but Rick Perry is leaving a mark on Texas that won't soon be forgotten.

With the new year, Texas' longest-serving governor will leave the office he's held for more than three consecutive terms. Handing the reins to Attorney General Greg Abbott, his transition marks the end of an era in Texas politics.

And yet, Perry doesn't sound like a man hanging up his spurs.

And Saturday's:

High-profile Democrats are jumping on the “Ready for Hillary” bandwagon, supporting Clinton for president before she even enters the race -- boosting her presumptive candidacy and potentially their own political fortunes.

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Al Franken, D-Minn., are among the biggest names to get on board -- positioning themselves in a familiar game in which early supporters are often rewarded with plum administration jobs or some political favor if their candidate wins.

“It’s a time-honored tradition,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor. “And a lot of candidates remember who was there early, who was willing to take the leap.”

(And, yes, prisoners are still being executed in the War on Editing: Franken, whose politics appear closer to those of Warren’s, said she is also “great” but “not running.”)


One old cat

Today in Fair 'n' Balanced "crime & courts" coverage:

A Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officer reportedly shot and killed a mountain lion on a Bourbon County farm this week, marking the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in the state since before the Civil War.

Why do you figure he finally decided it was safe to come back?

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Friday, December 26, 2014

They said did!

The trouble with inventing your own grammar is that sometimes it doesn't work -- you plow blithely ahead with your favorite new construction, but your poor readers simply assume that stuff means what it did the previous day. In that sequence, you lose.

We've commented before on Drudge's recent habit of dropping subject pronouns (mostly in  complementized and subordinated clauses), generally because the result just looks weird -- like encountering Timespeak or Tribune spelling for the first time. This one, on the other hand, points directly to a wrong meaning. If your first reading was that there's a kidnapped border agent and some cartel has claimed him or her, good for you. Alas for Drudge, the story intends something different:
Read more »

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Today in elongated yellow fruit

Eggnog: "The creamy holiday beverage."


Thanks, we've met

Somehow, it seems unlikely that the No. 4 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage is actually about the historic first encounter between these two tribes. Church and state go back a long way together; even if the state no longer delegates minor stuff like the vetting of political candidates to the church, they still have well-arranged protocols for things like, oh, tax exemptions.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the subtext here is something on the order of Jackbooted State Thugs are interfering with the free exercise thereof, First Amendment-wise. Or you could read the lede:

A woman was arrested Tuesday after she began to tear down a display by the Satanic Temple in the lobby of the Florida Capitol.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that 54-year-old Susan Hemeryck told two Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police officers that she "was sorry and had to take down the Satanic display", adding that it was "not right."

So it's less a church-state issue than a Breaking Other People's Stuff issue. Surely Fox is still holding the line on disrupting Christmas by breaking people's stuff.

And commas inside the quotation marks, please.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No, not really

Did this seem a little strange, if you were wandering around in 50-degree* weather on Tuesday?

It’s beginning to look a lot like a white Christmas in metro Detroit, according to the latest forecast. Rain is expected to persist through Christmas Eve and then turn to snow as temperatures drop, according to the National Weather Service. NWS meteorologist Deb Elliott said metro Detroiters could wake up Christmas Day with 1-3 inches of snow on the ground. She said there is a 70% chance for the white stuff.

Funny, doesn't sound like most of the latest forecasts from Monday and Tuesday. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what Mother Nature and Old Man Winter produce -- but could we do without a few of the Forbidden Phrases while we wait?

* Fahrenheit, for the international audience there.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Stamp out 'celebrates'

Now that Christmas hasn't come early, can New Year's resolutions be far behind? Here's one you can practice on for the Super Bowl! No, it's not the idea of running nothing but columns on your front page (check it out: four stories, four photo logos). It's the cutline with the obligatory NFL story:

Detroit Lions safety James Ihedigbo celebrates the tackle on the Chicago Bears’ Matt Forte during first-half action on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Lions won, 20-14, but it wasn’t pretty. Next week, they try to break a 23-year road losing streak in the state of Wisconsin. 

And the two on 6A:

Detroit Lions fans celebrate against the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. But it was galling how the Lions’ self-inflicted mistakes kept an awful Bears team close, especially during the first half, when Detroit committed three turnovers. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, and a muffed punt gave the Bears hope.

Detroit* Lions receiver Golden Tate celebrates a first down during first-half action Sunday. The Lions’ 20-14 victory followed their trusted formula all season — plenty of luck and plenty of guts.

And the versions in Miami and Charlotte, which at least put the story inside:

The Dolphins’ Terrence Fede, middle, celebrates after blocking a punt in the final seconds of Sunday’s game for a safety that helped Miami beat Minnesota, 37-35, at Sun Life Stadium. Despite officially being eliminated from playoff contention, team owner Stephen Ross said Joe Philbin would return in 2015 as Miami’s head coach.Story, 1D.

The Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart (28) celebrates his go-ahead touchdown catch with Cam Newton against Cleveland during the fourth quarter Sunday. Carolina (6-8-1) will play a winner-take-all game against the Falcons for the NFC South title Sunday in Atlanta. Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another in his return from a car accident that sidelined him last week. More in Sports

I'm not all that fond of "celebrate" photos to begin with; I'd like to have at least as much action as reaction in the visual mix, and I think the emphasis on reaction reflects a larger Dick Vitale-ization of sports that takes some out of the fun out of watching. But at the least, we can ban "celebrate" on grounds of redundancy. Don't tell me what I'm seeing when you can tell me why I'm seeing it.

* And yes, by this point I have a pretty good idea of where the Lions play. If the "Detroit" on every first reference is a rule, let's get rid of that too.

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You keep using that word

You can see why this looked like a lede story:

President Obama on Sunday called the unprecedented North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures an act of “cybervandalism,” not war, sparking outrage among lawmakers who believe the U.S. response has been too weak and may invite further aggression.

... but it's still tempting to ask our little friends at the Washington Times: Do you know what a "war" is and what happens in one?

If you're wondering how long it takes for Marco Rubio to show up, the answer is "about 20 paragraphs":

“I think it’s important that that movie be played, that that movie be seen. I don’t even know if it’s a good movie, but I think it is now important that we figure out a way to get that out there so Americans can watch it,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, told the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It is unacceptable that this attack [was] not just on our country, not just on a business located in America but on our constitutional freedoms. If it is unresponded to, if it stays the way it is now, it is going to be an incentive for others to do the exact same thing in the future."

If you've wondered before whether the WashTimes and RealClearPolitics have similar tastes in powdered soft-drink mix, consider this:

Despite the potential pitfalls of weighing in before all information has been processed, most of the likely 2016 contenders were eager to comment on the news regarding Cuba last week.

Here are four lessons that their responses taught us about the impending presidential race, which will kick off in earnest early next year.
1. If Marco Rubio Runs, He’ll Be the GOP’s Most Vocal Foreign Policy Hawk

You guys can play hawks and doves if you want to. The real fun is going to be watching the short-lived battle between realists and exceptionalists. 


Let's think about that for a bit

Has anyone taken "flying" yet? Sometimes there's a lot of that going on at this time of year.

"Learning their current biology" is probably not the best choice for what goes on at the Duke lab, either.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our work on this planet is done

Q: Could there be a more perfect Fox headline in the history of the world in space than "[NP][VP] Blame the Kenyan"?
A: Yes.

Q: OK, we're waiting.
A: How about "[NP] Terror Horror"?

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Tell them to buy an ad next time

Somebody at the county fair must have seen the Wichita Eagle coming:

Maybe it’s our meat-and-potatoes, no-frills M.O.

Maybe it’s our common-sense, git-r-done attitude.

Maybe our work ethic is so good that we can get things done faster than anyone else.

Whatever it is, Kansas, we’re No. 1.

At least when it comes to making a holiday meal fast, according to a survey by Del Monte.

It's official: When Christmas comes early for some happy public relations department, 'tis the season for Survey Grinch to kick the story back with a few questions:

(a) What do you think is true about your story?
(b) Given any answer other than "nothing" to (a), what do you think is interesting about it?

The fruit and vegetable company asked 2,500 Americans how long it takes them to prep for a holiday meal. Kansans who answered the survey spent the least amount of time – an average of 3.6 hours, according to a news release.

Read more »

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Forget flood. Interview Satan.

There's good news tonight, Mr. and Mrs. America, and it's right there in the No. 3 position on the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage:

A Michigan lawmaker has snatched victory from the clutches of Satan, just in time for Christmas.

Forget flood. Interview God Satan!

A nativity scene will grace the Statehouse lawn in Lansing after all, instead of leaving a satanic display as the capitol’s only holiday exhibit. The creche was saved when state Sen. Rick Jones volunteered to ensure that the Christian display would be packed up each night to comply with regulations.
Read more »

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why bother with the question mark?

The only interesting thing -- aside from the process that produced "in orders to" -- about the Fox homepage here is why it took until midafternoon to, you know, get to the real point of the story. (You could make a case for studying how quickly it fell off, but that's -- squirrel! -- mostly owing to the chance to say "Sony," "FBI" and "North Korea" in the same clause.) Did it really take that long to find a critic to do the accusing, given that Dr. Manny is already on the payroll?

If you really want to catch the drooler media at their peak on the Cuba story, you might want to check out The Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama may visit Cuba, even though the government is repressive, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

“It is not unprecedented for us to go places and interact with countries with whom we have a very fundamental difference of opinion about how they treat their citizens,” Earnest said Dec. 17, citing Obama’s recent travel to China and Burma.


Whence the "fascist" in the headline? Hang on:

,,, A national socialist government has ruled Cuba since 1959. Cuba’s fascist regime was highlighted Dec. 17, when the country’s ruler — Raul Castro —- appeared in a military uniform and addressed his subjects as “compatriots.” In contrast, leaders of the Communist Party in Russia excluded military leaders and uniforms, and addressed their subjects as non-national “comrades.”

In 2011, Castro replaced his brother, Fidel Castro, who ruled the country since 1959.

Earnest defended the deal with the fascist government by saying it has released more than 50 political prisoners, promised to work with officials from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cress, and promised to allow the importation of communications products, Earnest said.


In other words, if you got a cold, go take a shot of malaria. And don't forget the extra attribution!

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

The big fill

Somehow, I don't think so:

The smell of kettle corn chilled the frosty air, while saws whirred as ice sculptors perfected their creations in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts as the 42nd annual Noel Night moved into full swing tonight.

That does kind of seem to defeat the purpose of kettle corn, doesn't it? Though if you really needed to chill the frosty air, the science folks were doing some neat tricks with liquid nitrogen a few blocks to the southwest.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Today at Vacation Bible School

What are those pesky Satanists up to now, The Washington Times?

Florida agreed Thursday to let the Satanic Temple put up a holiday display at the Capitol, effectively putting to end a First Amendment lawsuit being filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Women and children off the streets! What would the display have looked like?

The state had previously denied the satanists from building a display of an angel falling into the fires of Hell right next to a more Christian-themed one of a nativity scene. But the Americans United for Separation of Church and State — citing the Hobby Lobby case — said it would sue on behalf of the satanists, on the grounds that the state couldn’t constitutionally keep out a display it deemed “offensive.”

Maybe the writer meant "Christmas-themed*?" Because as Christian themes go, you'd have to say that angels falling into hell ranks right up there:

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

... And the deuil that deceiued them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, for euer and euer.

It's kind of like Alinsky Fever -- you'd like to think the people who wave a book around and scream about the coming apocalypse would want to, you know, open the thing every now and then and see if the lyrics have changed.

(And no. You could say "denied their request to build" or "blocked them from building," but not "denied them from building.")

* A Little Drummer Boy falling into a lake of fire? Works for me.

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