Saturday, March 07, 2009

Why we need editors

Quick, what country does "the country" refer to in this AP yarn?

If you guessed "Syria," you're probably -- oh, a regular old-fashioned first-language English speaker or something. You're also wrong, but that's hardly your fault, is it?

Here's the relevant sentence, according to AFP: "President Obama will be visiting Turkey within the next month or so," she said. And within half an hour or so, the AP had come to its senses: Clinton also said President Barack Obama will visit Turkey in the "next month or so."

So if someone offers the bizarrely popular new line that today's well-educated writers are perfectly capable of editing themselves ("I produce copy that goes straight on screen - why can't anyone else do that?"), Obama's holiday plans ought to be a pretty obvious reminder. Good writers usually produce good first drafts more often, and more quickly, than less good writers. That's very different from suggesting that they don't make mistakes, produce disfluencies, ignore obvious holes or let stupid conventions of news writing drive them into the ground.*

The screen capture above is from Fox, where the very idea that superpowers can have talks with regional powers is -- hey, let's ask the bottom-feeders commenting on the story at Fox!

These terrorists are laughing their heads off at this weak minded socialist government lead by someone with his head in the sand.

Good move Obama . . . send your clowns out to make a deal with the devil. This poor sick Republic is in serious trouble.

It's impossible to tell from the time stamps whether these were posted to the original story or the update. And nothing the AP writes is going to make the Fox audience drastically smarter. But with a little editing -- even just asking a fresh set of eyes whether the stuff you wrote means what you think it means -- we could at least keep from adding to the sum of human cluelessness.

* Doug Fisher has some more examples in an eloquent defense of the deskly arts over at Common Sense Journalism.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Let's be fair to the Fox audience: Obama's minions-cum-clowns are talking to the Syrians, which is, like, the first sign of the End Times or something. Because this Republic only talks to people who are already doing what we want to tell them to do.

11:18 AM, March 07, 2009  

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