Sunday, February 08, 2015

Read it before you post it

Dear friends at the Old Reliable: If you can't be bothered to read it before you publish it, why should anyone be bothered to pay for it? 

But Smith endured, managing the stress with equanimity. After all the challenges, he came back to reign in the ACC again before retiring in xxx at age 66.

Considering that you said "1997" earlier -- well, fill in your own strained metaphor for basketball ineptitude here.

True, the canned obituary is one of those traditions than can lead to problems -- say, when the writer has moved on to more prominent pastures before the file has to be used. And I'd be surprised if any desk of this century has a quiet enough night that someone can safely utter the ancient phrase "Hey, let's polish up the pre-obits a little." All the more reason for a bit more care on the front end:
His commitment to building a championship program strained his marriage, however. He divorced his first wife, xxx xxxx in xxxx, with whom he had three children. In xxx he married xxxxxxx, and they had two children.

In fairness, the xxxx and xxxxxx have been cleaned up* -- but the sister is still "Joanne Ewing" on her first appearance and "Joan Ewing" on her second. The mystery guard "Jed Dalton" turns into "Ged" in one quote, suggesting he might be the Ged Doughton on this roster. And copy editors were put on this earth to wring redundancies out of sentences like this:

In 1971, Smith also treated the media covering his Tar Heels in the 1971 NIT in New York City to dinner at Mama Leone’s.

Newsroom lore has long held that sports audiences are the pickiest. Whether that's true or whether it's the sort of morality-play-disguised-as-ghost-story that we tell young copy editors at bedtime is a question for the ages. But your Dean Smith obit is going to be read far beyond the confines of the sports pages, meaning a lot of people have a chance to form judgments on your outfit's professionalism. Doing stuff right really does make a difference.
* Yes, the story's still a little confused about "X's and O's" vs. "X&O."

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