Monday, June 01, 2015

Hey, it's only the front page

When you're in a hurry and you're trying to cram more stuff than will fit into a relative clause that's supposed to make sense of your story, stuff happens. But two subject-verb blunders in the first two paragraphs -- that ought to be a sign unto you. Not necessarily that writers don't know any rules, but that someone learned the rules wrong and nobody's stepping in to help:

The deaths of two Detroit children who were taken out of public school to be homeschooled and later found in a freezer in March has sparked debate over whether more state oversight of homeschooled students is needed to prevent tragedies.

You answer the "who did what to whom?" question by isolating the smallest moving parts of a clause -- in this case, "deaths spark debate." The story might have started its life by talking about the case (singular) rather than the deaths (plural) and just never caught up with itself. That's a good argument for asking someone to take a deep breath, relax, and at least read the ledes before committing them to print.

Michigan is one of only 11 states that does not require homeschooling parents to register with the state or have any contact with officials. But legislation introduced recently could impact the way homeschooling operates in Michigan.

The next one's going to be on the final again. What is Michigan? One of only 11 states. Which 11 states is it only one of? The 11 states that do not require any contact. As soon as professionals stop getting it wrong, we'll stop testing students for it. Fair enough?

While we're here: I wouldn't make "homeschool" one word, but it's your stylebook; my advice is worth every cent you pay for it. If you must, though, please pay some attention to hyphenation. Don't let the computer make it "ho-meschooling" (p. 1) or "homes-chool" (p. 5).

On the Stuff Editors Used To Remember front, one that someone has apparently fixed in the online edition:

U.S. Army soldier William Woodrow Anderson was in his early 20s when he walked into a church amid the rubble of war-torn eastern Germany during World War II and grabbed a piece of fine satin.

Somebody should have raised that point before the print edition closed: Jena's in the east, but East Germany was a few years away yet. And while we're there, could we ask if the church is called "Kollegienkirchen" or just "Kollegienkirche"?

That's a lot of attention for the two feature stories in the middle of the page, but at least it's a way of not talking about the lead story:
Visit Detroit's Eastern Market district any Saturday morning and you'll likely see a line of people waiting to eat breakfast at the popular Russell Street Deli, which not long ago celebrated its 25th year in business.

Yes, the day's most important story boils down to this nut graf:

At a time when Detroit celebrates the entrepreneurial culture with splashy contests like Comerica Hatch Detroit, which awards $50,000 to a winning start-up idea, stories of long-term business survival paint a real-life picture of pain and perseverance.

Good thing the common cold is cured and the Fractious Near East at peace, huh?

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