Sunday, October 15, 2017

Grammar and the party press

Shouldn't be a surprise that the lead story this afternoon at the Formerly Fair 'n' Balanced Network was another tweet from Massster. But we should be a little more careful with the syntax, don't you think?
Seems to me that in the Fox hed, both "failing" and "New York Times" are trying to modify "reporter." But that hardly seems to be where the tweet is going, nor yet the lede:

President Trump on Sunday criticized a New York Times story stating that he has failed to fulfill campaign promises on undoing key Obama administration policies, calling the newspaper “failing” and pointing to early successes like exiting the international Paris climate accord and getting conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

Fox, of course, has a bigger mission at hand:

... Baker is The Times’ chief White House correspondent and is billed as a straight-news reporter.

Last month, the newspaper published a Baker story titled, “A Divider, Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach,” that reads like what could be considered an opinion piece.

Baker referred to  Trump as an “apostle of anger” and “deacon of divisiveness,” before noting that the president’s recent comments about athletes protesting the national anthem “distract from other matters, particularly Congress’ efforts on health care reform."

When reached by Fox News, Baker defended his comments as “analysis rather than opinion,” referring to it as “an observation” based on covering Trump for the past eight months.

The Times did not respond when Fox News asked if Baker is still considered a straight-news reporter.

... Trump has previously referred to the Times as “failing,” and many media watchdogs feel liberal bias is showing.

There's a shirttail for Brian Flood, who appears to be the new hand on the Bias Alert beat. He certainly seems to be developing a distinctive style.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Everything old is new again

Fans of the America First movement -- the original or its 21st-century incarnation -- might get a kick out of this, from the World's Greatest Newspaper, July 1944.

I'm especially fond of "Little Tom Thumb Dewey," but there's also a certain amount of prescience in "Four years from now the Dewey-Willkie international clique will be dead ducks and a great America First party will name and elect a President. Then we will have freedom in America."

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Monday, October 09, 2017

Flying verbs: A user's manual

Friends of the Flying Verb, rejoice: Now there's a journalism textbook to explain it all for you! Assuming you're on track to graduate in 1943, at least.

Under the subhead "Implied subject," here's how Radder & Stempel's "Newspaper Editing, Make-Up and Headlines"* introduces the example above:

The subject may not be expressed in the first deck. It may be implied in the first deck and expressed immediately in the second, provided it is the first word in the second deck. ... Some editors consider it bad form to run headlines in which the first deck has an implied subject.

The book cautions against using the flyer "if the verb might be understood to be in the imperative mode," and the examples have plural implied subjects: "Hear Bible Scholar" and "Rob Los Angeles Bank" (followed by "Pair Flees in Automobile"):

A few newspapers have a rule against beginning any headline with a verb, holding that even the third-person singular form might be confused with the imperative.

The section on writing heds about speeches fits the specification exactly:
... though many, if not most, shops that employed the Flying Verb were far more flexible. Here's the World's Greatest Newspaper, reporting on the dustup that eventually became Terminiello** v. Chicago:
The deck is "Three policemen injured outside hall"; I have trouble seeing them as the subject of "seize."

UK readers will be happy to know that there's also a justification for claim quotes, also from the section on reporting about speeches:
When the thought to be expressed is too long to go into the first bank with the name, some newspapers permit the copyreader to enclose the speaker's statement in quotation marks and let it stand alone in the first deck. The words need not necessarily be the exact words of the speaker. If they are not, the quotation mark merely indicates that someone made the statement.

Further insights on the flyer, or formal guidance for the art of the claim quote, always welcome. Thanks to Michael Fuhlhage*** for the loan of the textbook.

* Second edition, published in 1942. The first, in 1924, was called "Newspaper Headlines and Make-Up." Radder was a former NYT rimrat who taught at Indiana; Stempel, a student when the first edition was coming together, put in some time at the New York Sun and elsewhere before joining the academic ranks.
** "Self-styled Father Coughlin of the South," as the Trib put it.
*** The one, the only, the coiner of the phrase "Donner Party comma" for the comma of direct address ("Let's eat, Grandma").

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Pesky grammar

Hey, kids! Who wants to be first to diagram this headless relative clause from the Washington Times?

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Islamic terrorists and a National Review columnist, asked in a recent column how a probe created to explore any Trump-Russia collusion became what amounts to a large federal task force throwing all of its considerable power against one man who worked only briefly for the candidate.

As is so often the case, the grammar that gets you in trouble isn't "bad" grammar; it's perfectly "correct" grammar that's correct about more than one thing.

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