Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday school

Hey, kids, can you think of a passage that gave the cherubim and seraphim above a big old headache when they looked upon this morning's e-Missourian?

Whether a “man who lies with another man” can legitimately claim allegiance with other Christians and inherit the Kingdom of God has been a point of contention since the writing of the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

That's right, Buffy: This probably wasn't a point of contention among Christians when Leviticus was written because ... the Pentateuch was pretty much assembled by about 400 years BC! Thus a little grousing about the spate of blunders in the Missourian this week. Any rumblings of thunder indicate that some entity* higher in the celestial food chain than your correspondent isn't happy either.

Some errors -- the Leviticus thing is just another take on the Roman coin dated 44 BC -- just sort of slip through because nothing looks amiss at first glance. They're an argument for stopping at the end of every sentence and assembling a quick mental summary of it.

Others are arguments for following procedure. A good rule for beginning copy editors is to have a copy of the World Almanac at hand and consult it on every (rpt every) international story you read. This five-minute investment is the best way to head off heds like "Riots continue to disrupt Ireland" (3A Tuesday) -- Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Like understanding why the West Bank isn't a state called "Palestine," this distinction is sort of central to figuring out why the people in the story are throwing things and shooting at each other.

Still others underline the importance of reading text carefully. If a distinction is made in a story, the odds are it should be made in a hed or any other summary. Sally Ride wasn't "the first woman in space" (8A Friday). That honor belongs to Valentina Tereshkova. Ride was the first American woman in space. (This one hasn't been corrected yet but needs to be.)

Some errors come about because of grammar. More precisely, because writers and editors are obsessed with following nonexistent rules about what "over" means or whether it's OK to say something happened "last week" (it is) and don't pay attention to how grammar actually works to make individual chunks of meaning into bigger chunks of meaning. More about this one later.

And sometimes we just seem to be caught in one of those Greek mythology things wherein the gods introduce some errors in the system, then pour another one and sit back to watch the fun. That's the only to explain how, in writing about the Honor Medals bestowed by the J-school, we managed to misspell one winner's name, use the wrong part of his name on second reference and mislocate the hometown of another winner (quick, which big Texas city would you guess a station named K-H-O-U would be in?).

It looks as if we got several things wrong about the selection procedure too, but that's enough for now.

*Hmm. It's after deadline, the photo's too big and Revelation has a 2/72/2 -- maybe it's the Intelligent Designer!**
** Sorry, designers.


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