Wednesday, September 30, 2015


When the chart after the second graf makes clear that the hed is flat wrong, you can conclude that someone failed to RTFS, or Read The Story:

September has been tough for stock investors. But if history is any guide, the last day of September may deliver one more blow to already battered markets, according to the financial blog Bespoke.

Looking at data as far as 1945, the S&P 500 has posted positive returns just 38% on the last day of September, making it one of the worst trading days of the year, according to Bespoke (as the included table illustrates).

By one of these two metrics, Sept. 30 is apparently tied for fifth on that coveted list of trading days least likely to see a positive closing for the S&P 500 -- neither "investors" nor "the worst" nor empire. (While Feb. 21 has produced a positive close less often, its overall loss is a little over half the size of the one that set headlines ablare at MarketWatch; which day should we consider worse for "investors"?)

The larger question is the KTFS one: Would you buy a used investment analysis (or advertising space at a site that offers investment analysis) from a place that apparently thinks past performance really does guarantee future results?

... If Wednesdays trading action follows the historical trend, things could get worse for investors before they get better. 

Or not. At this writing,* the S&P 500 is up 1.71% for the day; a few minutes ago, it was down 2.8%. Oops! Now it's plummeted to +1.68%. (The Dow industrials and the Nasdaq, both positive, seem unperturbed by the omens. Or not.) Those friendly games of chance at the county fair were made for advice like this. (Stop press! +1.73%!)

This tale came to the non-MarketWatch world's attention (at least, my attention) through the Drudge Report, where fictional heds about bogus correlations are the house special:

For Drudge, any story that sends the peasants out in search of gold and freeze-dried food is a good story. Outfits that don't want to be mistaken for that (+1.89%) might want to reconsider their approach to the art of the headline:
And with that, the S&P appears to have closed up nearly 2 points, which has as much to do with its historic performance on Sept. 30 as any other result would have.

* 3:40 p.m. EDT, if you're scoring along at home.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Calm down, AP

Q. Which sentence is correct? "When that happens, it can look like one is stepping on the others' toes." Or: "When that happens, it can look like one is stepping on the other's toes." – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Mon, Sep 28, 2015
A. The second.

Along with "did you look it up?" and "no, really -- did you look it up?" and "whichever you want," let's suggest another stock answer for Ask the Editor questions: "Yes."

Maybe more precisely: "Both, but they're each correct about a different thing. Which one did you have in mind?" The first has you (sorry, "one") stepping on more than one set of toes; the second has only one other to worry about the toes of.

The Stylebook doesn't actually have to rule on every question that comes down the pike. It's kind of the editors not to make fun of the really silly ones, but they'd give a better impression of their work -- and avoid turning the study of "style" into a nightmare of random choices -- if they discarded a few of them and gave more sensible answers to others. And yes, "that's not a style question" is a fine answer, too.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 21, 2015

Forbidden and unforbidden

I suppose someone took the summer off before returning to the preferred lede for matters coming out of Lansing:

LANSING — Flamethrowers and sky lanterns and drones, OH MY!

So it's a mere four months since:

LANSING Bed bugs and lady bugs and lice, oh my!

Cookies and brownies and Rice Krispies treats, oh my!

All this in addition to an entirely unrelated feature hed that showed up last week:

All of which should call forth the usual questions about whether anybody downtown even bothers to read the stuff before hitting the button anymore. But then comes a phenomenon to which I wish to draw your attention. Here are the main-clause verbs from all the display photo captions in Sunday's "The Blitz," a weekly (at this time of year) section comprising eight open pages devoted to Michigan and Michigan State football*:

Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge, left, catches a pass for a touchdown

Michigan State's Riley Bullough (30) was called for targeting 

Michigan State's Madre London is tackled by Air Force's Kaleel Gaines

Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge is tackled by Air Force's Jesse Washington

Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple runs the ball after an interception

Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise makes a diving touchdown run against Georgia Tech

Arbor Brewing Company owner Matt Greff, left, toasts Joey Stinson of Eastern Michigan University athletics and Brian McShane, bar manager with Arbor Brewing Company

Jamar Williams, left, and Mike Figgs with EMU athletics pour Arbor Brewing Company beers

Michigan's Ty Issac rushed for 114 yards on eight carries

Michigan's Grant Perry dives into the end zone trying to make a touchdown reception 

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock scrambles out of the pocket 

Michigan's Ty Issac scampers 76 yards for the Wolverines' third touchdown

U-M's Channing Stribling (8) and Ben Gedeon (42) tackle UNLV wide receive Devonte Boyd

U-M quarterback Jake Rudock threw for only 123 yards against UNLV

By no means is all right with the world. You might wonder, for example, who's right -- the competition, the official-looking fan site or the paper itself -- on the spelling of Ty Isaac/Issac's family name.** Or why there are so many passive verbs explaining what happened to Michigan State players, rather than telling you whether something of interest might have happened during the play. But you do see occasional flashes of competent editing: using the caption to talk about how well a player did overall or what happened on a specific play. Even more important is what you don't see: No one "celebrates" anything.

I'm not sure exactly what it means. It might just mean that this section -- for whatever episodic or systematic reason -- simply didn't carry any photos of athletes celebrating. (Or that photographers have remembered to wake up before the play is over.) Or it might mean that parts of the remnant Freep desk are trying to use cutline space to complement visual journalism: to tell you why you're seeing something, rather than telling you what you're seeing. And it could entirely be an accident. For whatever reason, it's sort of a benchmark. Other papers should strive to have celebrate-free sections.
* Yes, the Carnegie Research 1 school a few miles from where this paper is published occasionally rates a line or two. Covering it regularly might involve doing journalism, which is a challenge when it doesn't have the sort of public status that the other research schools within H-bomb radius can command.
** Or whether there are circumstances under which white guys "scamper," but that's the price of teaching the introductory doc studies seminar this year.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey

How are things on the Old Earth Creation front, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

The cover article on Aug. 30, about a trip around Lake Michigan, misstated the time period during which the lake was formed and the type of activity that caused it. And a correction in this space on Sept. 6 gave another incorrect figure for the time period and repeated the erroneous cause. The lake began to form about 15,000 years ago — not 20 billion years as the article noted, or 1.2 billion as the correction noted. And the formation stemmed from glacial activity, not from tectonic activity.

If the second date was wrong, how did the correction "note" it?

A news analysis last Sunday misstated the name of a cartoon character displayed at a Moscow diner. He is Porky Pig, not Porky the Pig.

I'm OK with, though not always ecstatic about, the Times's habit of setting "due to an editing error" blunders aside from the rest -- writers get enough heat from sources and the public as it is. But there are times when it would be nice to figure out where in the chain (south of Arthur the Sulzberger, I mean) we can pin the blame for some of the more amusing Times errors.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Those pre-debate rules again

In case you need reminding:

Gloves don't come off. Gloves aren't put on. If gloves aren't worn, gloves aren't mentioned.

Nobody gets "trumped." Nobody's first name takes a determiner. For that matter, nobody's first name is used after the first reference.

There is no "storyline." There will be no zingers.

Friends don't let friends say "Real Clear Politics average."

Any questions?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Expletive elated

What's up in Servergate today, Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

The tech company that managed the private email server that Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state says it has “no knowledge of the server being wiped,” which means some of her elated emails could be recovered, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Things are a little more circumspecct at the Post:

The company that managed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server said it has “no knowledge of the server being wiped,” the strongest indication to date that tens of thousands of e-mails that Clinton has said were deleted could be recovered.

Fox: Come for the race-baiting paranoia, stay for the autocorrect!

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 07, 2015

Who did what to whom?

No peeking: Who (or what) is doing what (or whom) to whom (or what) in the story?

Read more »

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Today in standards

Well, what would you do if y0u were the Nation's Newspaper of Record and a famous author called to say a bunch of the stuff you printed about his personal life in a book review was, um, made up?

In reviewing this complaint, editors determined that the reviewer had based his account of these matters mostly on information from an article about Vargas Llosa in The Daily Mail, but neither the reviewer nor editors independently verified those statements. Using such information is at odds with The Times’s journalistic standards, and it should not have been included in the review.

Nice as far as it goes, but a little more clarity on those journalistic standards would be nice. Does this mean that you shouldn't use other outlets' stories without verifying them or that you shouldn't lift stuff from the Daily Mail, period? (Both good ideas, but not the same good idea.) Or just that someone forgot to remind the reviewers not to make up their own facts?

And on the "yes, you could have looked it up" front:

The review also misspelled Isabel Preysler’s surname. It is not Presyler.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Step right up, step right up!

The New York Post's hard-hitting economic reporter is at it again:

If this column had sound, I’d be playing organ music right now with the volume climbing like in all those old horror movies — followed by a shriek, “Aiieee!”

On Friday, the US Labor Department releases its August employment report and, no matter how it goes, it could be very frightening.

Or -- because such is the nature of "could" predictions -- not.

If the number is too weak, people will worry even more than they already are about the health of the US economy. Too strong and the concern will be that the Federal Reserve finally has the excuse it needs to raise interest rates.

I don’t think there was good job growth in August. And statistical quirks in how the numbers are compiled could actually make the growth look very disappointing.

Or ... not. Anyway, if the first Friday of the month is a moment of joy for you, you'll want to tune in and see how the Post fared in its prediction.