Sunday, October 28, 2018

Don't fear the seekers

If it ain't one comma thing, it's another. Here, the missing Donner Party creates yet another Halloween dilemma. Perhaps you had settled on going as Beautiful Clean Coal, rather than an open stylebook; now you have to add Job Seeker to your list of possible costumes. Alas, it appears the editors have already done so.

Thanks, as always, to Powderhorn for the share.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Shoot, the piano player!

Yes, that's been quite enough breathless promotion of the Stupidity Tax for the year, but even the dozenth lottery story of the week can contain a punctuation gem. Imagine, if you will, these sentences:

You can't win the lottery honestly.
You can't win the lottery, honestly!

... and then see if you still want to lay off all your copy editors.

Because these things never happen in a vacuum, there's also this rendition of the president's excuse-making for his desert friends:
Like, the thing about discourse markers, you know, is that sometimes, well, you get a really different meaning if you don't set them off with commas. (I know, right?) As in, he probably didn't mean "you know you're guilty"? Here's the AP's version:

“I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Treat commas right so they'll treat you. Right? Think of the Donner Party.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

That'll teach you, liberal media!

Well! Clearly somebody's not having any more of this "so-called 'caravan'":

As the so-called US-bound “caravan” traveling through Mexico continues to swell, some questions arise that the media will not ask. Who is funding these efforts?* How has it grown so quickly and what did the Democrats have to offer besides a bunch of cliches and bromides, and of course grandstanding?

That's Laura Ingraham, in the No. 3 spot on the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage, laying out where the liberal media go wrong with their language:

If you have been watching other networks, you have been treated to sympathetic, overwrought coverage of this invading horde, which is anything but a “caravan.” Mainstream news networks have dispatched teams of embedded reporters who are not so much covering the migrant mob as covering for it.

Nor is Ingraham the only right-wing columnist banging their rattle on the crib about the terminology. Funny, here's John Kass of the Chicago Tribune** earlier in the day:

It’s not really a “caravan,” is it?

Those thousands of desperate migrants walking across Mexico, a massive crowd that grows by the day, are intent on forcing a confrontation at the U.S. border.

This crowd can be called many things, but “caravan” isn’t one of them.

Having grown weary of Fox's coverage of the matter this past week, I was sort of holding out for "caravanserai," myself. Or maybe requiring Fox hosts to actually sing the bridge (oh, go ahead and enjoy some Ella). But the problem seems to be more that the opinionators are getting out in front of the boss, who's fine with "caravan":
Likewise the Department of Homeland Security, which Drudge seems not to be placing in scare quotes for the nonce:
... and, of course, Fox itself (Oct. 18. 19 and 22):
Indeed, although the current homepage hed says "March of Misery," Fox still manages to get "caravan" in the second graf:

HUIXTLA, Mexico – They have been walking for 15 days, some only in flip-flops or crocs. The walks have been long and excruciatingly hot.

“I feel very, bad. All my body is hurting,” said Juan Ramon Hernandez, who is part of a growing caravan in Mexico slowly making its way to the U.S. border. “I can’t stand it.”

Credit where due, now. Kudos to Fox for going down Mexico way to cover the event, but ... could that be "sympathetic, overwrought coverage" sneaking in?

As the world’s eyes remain on the migrant caravan, which has become the new rallying cry in the country’s explosive immigration debate, the members of the caravan are starting to feel the effects of the grueling journey – but they vow to march on.

“I have asked for a cream but they don't have any,” said Wendy Arrelano, another member of the caravan who sprained her ankle a few days ago. “So they just wrapped my foot.”

Looks like we got ourselves a convoy nice old-fashioned framing fight going on. Meanwhile, let's flash back in time five years and recall the gummint "slimdown."

* Even Fox seems to be temporarily shamed out of blaming Soros.
** Quoting your barber is not substantively different than quoting a Beirut taxi driver, if you're scoring along at home.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

How news puts a thumb on the scales

I'm not complaining about the headline, which I think is one of those cases in which "objective" journalism works perfectly well. A straight-faced rendition in big type of a bullshit claim* allows the bullshit to shine through without putting the news outlet on one side or the other. My concern is with the lede,** in which a commonplace bit of news practice -- trying to get back on-cycle by emphasizing what was "confirmed," rather than what happened -- actually does put the agency on the side of the bad guys and con artists:

Jamal Khashoggi died during a fight inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Saudi authorities confirmed late Friday. The announcement, made on state TV and also released via the official Saudi Press Agency, comes more than two weeks after the missing journalist disappeared after entering the diplomatic compound in Turkey.

Like it or not, one basic definition of "news" is something that happened since the last edition (or broadcast, or "time you updated the homepage" for you kids). That's what enabled urchins to hawk tabloids through the teeming streets a century ago, and it's why "confirming" a story on which you were beaten is a standard tactic: you can reclaim the element of what-happened-today without having to credit the outfit that hosed you.

Here, though, USA Today grabbed the wrong verb -- or, at least, ignored the scope of the verb it did grab. It's news that the Saudis have acknowledged Khashoggi's death, but that's not the same as acknowledging -- or "confirming" -- the purported circumstances of his death. As a consequence, USAT (and any other paper for which the assorted Gannett hubs nodded and yawned and waved this through) looks like a tool of the administration and its friends du jour.

Note, on the other hand, the indications of apparent skepticism in this graf: 

Read more »

Monday, October 15, 2018

Two first-class seats ...

... on the unheated cattle car to Siberia for the bold but rash Fox journalist who pointed out in the morning's top story that the Dear Leader lied in his comments today:

Trump, though, brushed off Warren's DNA test when asked about it Monday morning, while claiming he never made the million-dollar offer (he did, at a rally over the summer).

Let's be kind to Fox and assume this was intentional. Well done, and sorry about the lack of heat.


Sunday, October 07, 2018

Pronouns: You had ONE job

... and that one job was to look at the illustration before writing the blurb, and today is the debut of the 13th Doctor, and you still write "a time-traveling alien called 'The Doctor' and his human companions"?

People! Embrace singular "they"! If you don't have a clue (and even in some cases if you do), it's here to help! Don't make us upgrade you.

All right, if you insist, here's another should-be-they pronoun from earlier in the week:
No, you haven't. You wouldn't burst into the room shouting that you just saw beer chugged through a nose, because you innately understand that noses are inalienably possessed, and you just wouldn't. What the hed means, of course, is "Hey, have you ever seen a frattybagger from ECU* chug beer through his nose?" But since that's inappropriately specific, we probably want an indefinite antecedent, and those go very well with "they": Have you ever seen someone chug beer through their nose?

If singular "they" is a bridge too far for you here, you might instead put your energy into wondering why grownup newspapers are running stories about beer-nose-chugging in the first place.

* Calm down, kids. I'm from Greenville.


Whose snare of cold command

When everybody uses the same story and no one edits it, this is the result in the local fishwrap. Would you be talking about the sphinx at Giza?

From "Ask Amy" in the same edition:
OK, we had a reformed Episcopalian at ours, but are you sure you don't mean a Reform rabbi?

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