Friday, May 17, 2013

"That's what" of the month

Sayonara, prison life.

That’s what Monica Conyers can say now that her federal prison sentence for bribery is officially over.

Is there a particular reason she can say that today, rather than in December, when she  moved from prison to the halfway house described in today's story, or January, when she moved to "home confinement"? Is it the number of silly 1950s stereotypes she absorbed from movies in the interim, or what? Inquiring minds want to ... no, they don't.

The "top cop" parade continues, of course, with this from a 1A story:

In a wide-ranging interview Thursday with the Detroit Free Press editorial board and reporters, James Craig — coming from a job as the Cincinnati police chief to become Detroit’s top cop — said he wants to make sure the department is staffed appropriately.

... and this hed from a sidebar (slightly different in print, above right): 

Detroit's new top cop loves Detroit metal, his Pontiac GTO

There's further internal evidence of War on Editing damage that should be unsettling:

Craig said his wife owns a home health care business and reside* in Los Angeles. He said she has three children from a prior marriage, and he also has two children from a prior relationship — a daughter who works as a victim’s advocate and a 19-year-old son.

Craig said he grew up on Detroit’s northwest side and said his his parents still live in the area.

He said someone tried to steal his father’s car by pushing it from behind a fence and rolling it down the driveway, before his father activated the alarm and scared the thief off. Though not a violent crime, Craig said it’s still troubling.

When people write in a hurry, they -- well, they write like people in a hurry. They bungles subject-verb agreement, and they types the same word twice in in a row. Journalists work fast, so as a courtesy to the journalists who report and write, we have other journalists read behind to ensure the stuff is clean and makes sense. In the good old days, children, those were called "copy editors."

Editors do more than catch typos and grammatical fumbles, though. They ask, or they should be asking, why the story is relying on "said he ..." for stuff that should have been verified when it became clear Craig was the only candidate standing. (
Did he actually grow up on the northwest side? Do his parents still live there? Do newsrooms still have those things called "phone books" and "city directories"?) And they ask pragmatic stuff: When did someone try to steal dad's car? Last week? Last year? Right after Kwame was elected? Back in the 1980s?

Those questions matter -- not just because "someone tried to steal my dad's car!" and "someone tried to steal my dad's car 25 years ago!" suggest different levels of immediate concern, but because they imply different priorities about crime control in 2013. If editors aren't asking that sort of question, then readers are getting crap thinking along with their morning typos.

*This appears in print but is fixed online.

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