Monday, December 3, 2007

98% newspaper mistakes go uncorrected

Almost half of the articles published by daily newspapers in the US contain one or more factual errors, and less than two percent end up being corrected, reports a study. It’s time to increase both the size of correction boxes and reporting accuracy.

The study, achieved by Scott R Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, spanned across 10 newspapers and found that 98% of the 1,220 factual errors went uncorrected.

Whereas editors and journalists tend to believe the correction boxes cover most of the factual errors, these overwhelmingly go uncorrected, even when pointed out by news sources.

“This study, however, shows that even when errors were reported by news sources, the vast majority – 98 per cent – remained uncorrected,” comments Newswatch.

Why do these mistakes go untouched? Is it newspapers that refrain from publicizing all their errors, or are some ‘factual’ errors reported by sources contested by journalists?

On a more positive note, Maier found it positive that most newspapers regularly invite readers to correct mistakes, and usually have prominent correction box. The New York Times publishes daily a toll-free number and email address for readers to submit their corrections.

Some examples were less comforting: the Miami Herald fails to routinely publish a corrections policy, the Grand Fork Herald buries its corrections next to the obituaries. Another paper didn’t include the correction box in the online version of a story.

More frightening is the generally large amount of errors found in newspaper stories on average. Following a statistical logic, papers would have to increase fifty-fold the space allotted to corrections. Or journalists can start triple-checking all their facts.

Top 10 Reasons That Being a Copy Editor is So Cool

10. It's like solving a puzzle.

9. You find a whole world of other people who go crazy over the "10 items or less" sign in the grocery store. (Or, as one new editor put it, "I can constructively satisfy my obsessive-compulsive anal-retentive tendencies and get paid for it.")

8. Your job changes constantly; you are never bored.

7. You become a more interesting person. You can talk about Arafat, Agassi, Albright, and Aguilera and sound like you know what you're talking about -- because you do.

6. You have responsibility and power. You decide how the reader will perceive the news - how they'll perceive the world.

5. Catching a dumb mistake before readers see it is a rush. Helping someone make a story better is the best drug there is.

4. Newspapers never ask writers to edit, but they love it when editors write.

3. You could be the world's best quiz show contestant, because you're a dictionary of useless information.

2. You can move anywhere you want and find a job.

1. You never have to dress nice.

An editor's nightmare-the email grammar stickler

USA Today columnist Craig Wilson writes about the emails and letters he receives daily regarding grammar errors. He adds humor to the subject by speaking about one woman in particular who seems obsessed with finding and calling out these errors. Here is just a small section from the article.

From the article...

I had a reader who was on such a roll this month, e-mailing me her list of grammar complaints. These weren't so much violations made by me, just what irritates her most.

She began with her husband. His favorite word is "irregardless." She says she has told him repeatedly it is not a word, but he pays her no mind.

He told her it was in the dictionary — it is — and to leave him alone. What she can't convince him of is that the dictionary's definition of irregardless is "regardless."

She then moved on to the misuse of contractions.

What sent her right around the bend recently was a shirt Paris Hilton was wearing to some function that people such as Paris Hilton attend. It read "Thats hot" on the front and "Your not" on the back.

Somewhere Webster is spinning in his grave, she wrote. I suspect she might be right, although Webster never struck me as a spinner type.

What really impressed me, though, was her confession that she sits in church and picks out the mistakes in the Sunday bulletin. She knows this is bad. She told me so.

I replied that I doubted the good Lord would strike her down for editing in church, just as long as she still listened to the sermon.

Good News for Print Journalism

Good news for my fellow print journalists! According to one journalism savvy blogger, print journalists have nothing to worry about. He feels that while newspapers and other publications may be struggling right now there will still be a need for them in the future.

Outrageous news clips- Suggestive and so embarassing!

I had to share this video! Clips from various newscasts are put together to show how the inappropriate use of certain words can change the whole meaning of what you are trying to say!

NPR Journalists Are Targeted in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

After the Hurricane Katrina devastation, many people felt that journalists (like those at NPR) were doing too much criticizing and not enough helping. This is just part of the article in which NPR editor Ellen Weiss speaks out on the subject.

'Don't Stop Being Human'

Ellen Weiss is the senior national editor for NPR News. She oversees the complex editorial and logistical requirements for reporters and producers sent to the stricken areas.

I think for the most part NPR reporters understand that they are in the field to tell the story -- not get involved. They are also often in the same position as the people they are covering -- in danger, or without shelter, food or water. At the same time, you just don't stop being… human. I remember [NPR's] Mike Shuster on his "silk road" series -- talking about picking up an injured Afghan boy and giving him a ride to the hospital or to safety miles away -- I know our reporters in New Orleans gave people rides elsewhere -- gave whatever water they could spare to people they met -- but they understand that they can't jeopardize their own health and safety. An interesting example is what happened to Sarah Chayes -- she was a freelancer for us in Europe and then Afghanistan -- and she did become so involved there that she simply left journalism and went into aid work.

Someone was asleep at the switch if they didn't notice something wrong with this newscast!

Thousands of viewers had to take a second look during this newscast. A reporter describing the suspect of a recent rape has a police sketch behind him that bares and uncanny resemblance to himself. How embarrassing!

The debate continues : Is there a future in journalism?

It seems that every person related to the journalism field in some way has an opinion about what the future will hold for the industry. Writer Hans Durrer holds a more positive attitude on the subject than most.

"Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years," and other 'what were they thinking' headlines!

  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • House passes gas tax onto senate
  • Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
  • Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
  • William Kelly was fed secretary
  • Milk drinkers are turning to powder
  • Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
  • Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
  • Farmer bill dies in house
  • Iraqi head seeks arms
  • Queen Mary having bottom scraped
  • Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes appeal to Pope
  • Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
  • NJ judge to rule on nude beach
  • Child's stool great for use in garden
  • Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
  • Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
  • Organ festival ends in smashing climax
  • Eye drops off shelf
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Dealers will hear car talk at noon
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
  • Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
  • Never withhold herpes from loved one
  • Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
  • Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
  • Autos killing 110 a day, let's resolve to do better
  • if strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
  • War dims hope for peace
  • Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
  • Cold wave linked to temperatures
  • Child's death ruins couple's holiday
  • Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years
  • Man is fatally slain
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
  • Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation

Copy editing isn't rocket science, it's worse!

This blog is pretty funny. Blogger Kat Richardson talks about the need for copy editing in the world of writing and the nit picking precision that comes along with it!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Casual language/multimedia knowledge

Since this is my last post, I thought I'd do a little combining of subjects. First up, the issue of casual language or slang in headlines has always bothered me. Mostly because I feel like it's frowned upon unless you're in the confines of an art hed or elaborate pun. A few hours ago at work, I wanted to write "digs" in reference to a school's new building -- as in "Elementary school gets 'green' digs." (Green as in energy-efficient.) But I figured that wouldn't really fly in a normal news story. I could be wrong, but kind of don't think I am. I wonder if use of slang is frowned upon because the older crowd is who actually reads the newspaper, or publications think it's an easy way to maintain credibility, but either way, it stinks. I feel like if it's a common expression/word that basically everyone would know, why can't we use it? Everyone knows what "digs" in that context would mean, right? I think if the copy editors banded together and decided to quit being so stuffy, we could actually draw in a younger audience so badly needed with headlines that have more conversational, entertaining language.

The second thing I wanted to touch on was something I saw (once again) on Romenesko, which said something about how newspapers want to hire people who have multimedia knowledge. This scared me a little, because though I like to think I know a good amount about computers, generally, technology and I don't get along too well. Thank god for this class, that we have learned Soundslides and other programs, but apparently the more experiences you have the better. I kind of like staying in my print-knowledge comfort zone (aka basically no multimedia needed), but I know I need to push out of that to keep up with the times. I guess if we walk into a job without having a multifaceted multimedia background, we're going to be in trouble. Enter my next semester god save: the J-school's online media class.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The future is us

I like Tim McGuire's blog. It's just fun and interesting.

His most recent piece argues the merits of citizen journalism vs. mainstream media. Many people apparently view mainstream media as "sold out" and "lacking credibility" -- on the other hand, citizen journalism has been criticized for having no ethics and no guardianship.

I won't repeat the entire piece here (I recommend you read it, though -- it's cool; click on the headline above). For what it's worth, I think I tend to side more with the "mainstream media" point of view on this matter, mainly because of the ethical issue: citizen journalists do not have to adhere to the same code of ethics as do professional journalists.

On the other hand, I think it's important not to eliminate citizen journalism completely, simply because they have information and a point of view that may not be available from any other source. Citizen journalists can be a terrific source for professional journalists...who also might be able to bring to a story deeper, more thorough and investigative aspects that citizen journalists simply don't have the expertise for.

What do you guys think? : )

When is plagiarism not plagiarism?

According to this story, a University of Missouri journalism professor resigned after he admitted that he plagiarized material from a student writer. It's a rather convoluted tale (you can access it by clicking on the headline), but apparently the only thing he "lifted" were quotes. Poynter author Roy Peter Clark seems to take the tack that it really wasn't plagiarism at all, but rather sloppy attribution.

Doesn't this beg the argument that a quote is a quote is a quote? Once the quote is out there, do we really have to say where it came from? I think we do, simply because such information is relevant to whatever we're reading. I do agree with Clark, however, that the "scarlet letter" of plagiarism can easily lead to witch hunts, inducing competent and learned journalists to quit the business at the first blush of scandal.

I'm not arguing in favor of Jayson Blair...but I think that genuine, time-tested and battle-scarred journalists are precisely the men and women we need in the field. It's probably safe to say that the UM professor won't make that mistake again. Would it be better for his students to leave him where he is, sadder but wiser? Or, on the other hand, is that endorsing the very behavior we expel students for?

I'm not drawing conclusions here. I just wanted to air both sides of the tale -- and let you draw your own conclusion.

Online editing

It seems like in the drive to get news online faster, copy editing has gone out the door. I can't count the number of times I have gone on the East Valley Tribune's and Arizona Republic's Web sites and seen clear libel or numerous mistakes that copy editors would have fixed if they had read the stories before they were published on the Web. In newspapers' effort to be first, they have sidestepped the important role that copy editors play in keeping stories accurate, complete and clear. I've seen so many instances where someone has been "arrested for" a crime, which is clearly libelous. Newspapers need to come up with a system where stories filter through the copy desk before they are put online; and I know the Tribune is moving toward that goal and the Republic does have people around the clock putting stories online. Just because the story isn't in print, doesn't mean the newspaper has any less accountability for making that piece accurate and clear. Though copy editors traditionally work at night, perhaps even one person working a graveyard shift can curb many of the mistakes that make their way into stories put directly online. Web publication can be even more problematic in that those stories never go away. Any time someone searches for or comes across an online story, the mistakes will still be there, and that's a huge problem for newspapers.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Insensitive column on Sean Taylor's death

I know Matt wrote about the murder of Redskins safety Sean Taylor during an apparent robbery earlier this week. But as a follow-up, I saw on Romenesko a Washington City Paper blog entry about the backlash against a pretty insensitive column titled "Taylor's Death is Tragic but Not Surprising" by Leonard Shapiro in the Washington Post. Shapiro said he has received an outpouring of hate e-mails about his insensitivity and even racism in the column. In the blog he was quoted as saying he did not write the headline that accompanied his piece (which he said a lot of people couldn't get past) and if he had the chance, he would have rethought some points. But he didn't apologize for what his column was trying to say. Taylor had many on- and off-field transgressions that tarnished his image, but teammates and others said he was going through a transformation to clean up his act. Shapiro asserted that due to Taylor's embracing of a "thug lifestyle," his murder was very tragic but really shouldn't have surprised anyone. I think this debacle is so interesting, especially for us as copy editors, because it shows that headlines are so important in conveying a message. Shapiro himself said people couldn't get past the insensitive headline. I don't think it matters if this is a column, writing that someone's untimely death was not surprising (that it was maybe even coming to him) is in bad taste. This man was 24 and had a newborn daughter. He had so much time to turn around his so-called thug image. The discipline problems may have worked themselves out in time. The bottom line is he was murdered, and though I understand what Shapiro was getting at, it was insensitive to Taylor's family and legacy, and victims should be treated with much more respect. What ever happened to the basic journalistic principle of minimizing harm? Though Shapiro wrote almost the same exact phrase in his column, he wants to blame the headline for the backlash. That's legitimate seeing as how prominent the headline is, but he needs to take responsibility for this mistake. However, I wouldn't call him racist after reading this. The copy editor who wrote the headline and edited the column, should have and double-checked and discussed this piece with a multitude of higher-ups before its publication. The copy editor also should have thought of a less-jarring, more sensitive headline. Both the copy editor and especially Shapiro should have taken greater lengths to minimize harm.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Editing business news

I should put a question mark in the title, because I really don't know how to edit business news. I'm at work, having finished looking at a business story (a different version of the one that's in the link) and a business column. And I'm thinking it's a bad thing that most of the stories' terminology is totally foreign to me. So, my question is: How do you edit a story when you really have no clue about the subject? I wish I knew the answer. Common terms from the linked story include "cash equivalents," "gross margin" and "investment gains." I'm clueless as to what I'm dealing with when I come across those phrases, and I'm kind of wondering if most people who are reading the business page understand them. Typically I skirt along, correcting minor stuff and hoping none of the terminology is off. Thank god this was a wire story. But if I come across something I really just can't decipher, I ask my bosses. Maybe something like a business copy desk should be created, similar to the sports desk. Then again, who has money to do that in this industry, especially when business pages are dwindling anyway.

Fake-news blackout could have consequences

The Boston Phoenix tackles the story of what could happen when people who depend on shows normally written by the writers who are on strike are cut off from even fake news as the country nears a presidential election.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is on the poynter site:

"Meet early and often with all staffers to plan major projects," said Kelli Sullivan, Los Angeles Times deputy design director for news projects. "The best work is done through collaboration and teamwork," Sullivan said, the lead designer on the paper's 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning series "Altered Oceans."

Her advice: Determine space and color needs early to get the best project, perhaps holding it until you have the proper amount of space. Edit tightly to play key elements well, and work through multiple versions to improve design. Be ruthless when editing photos and graphics, and remove clutter. "Our motto is, 'Keep things simple.' "

She'll break design rules for special projects, such as a front-page magazine approach to "toxin tide," and use "quiet" graphics and headlines on an account of war veterans' traumatic injuries.

I like this because I think it neatly illustrates something we've talked about in class: letting the story dictate the design. The rest of the article is interesting, too, and it brings up something I'd like to ask for everyone's opinion on: is it okay to run 'busy' graphics and sensational stories (with photos) IF it reaches more readers? Or are we pandering to the "lowest common denominator" or people's desire for "sensationalism"? When does it become tabloid journalism?

Here's the story:

Whoops, sorry about that. Oh, btw, the seven rapists got a slap on the wrist -- 2 to 9 years. That was AFTER her appeal.

Okay, it's hairsplitting...

But it's still really bad math. This was on CNN's website this morning:

The ministry's account Saturday alleged that the woman and her lover met in his car for a tryst "in a dark place where they stayed for a while."

The girl was initially sentenced to prison and 90 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her. An appeals court then doubled the lashes to 200.

The increase in sentence received heavy coverage in the international media and prompted expressions of astonishment from the U.S. government. Canada called it "barbaric."

Last time I checked, doubling 90 gives you 180. I think "more than doubled" would have worked. This is from the story of how a Saudi Arabian rape victim fought back by taking her assailants to court -- where she was victimized again by the judicial system. When she appealed her 'sentence,' the judge doubled her punishment. Whipping -- how quaint. I don't often send outraged letters to my congressional representatives, but I did over this issue. Something to think about the next time we gas up at the pump: this is the type of government we're funding in Saudi Arabia through our purchases.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor's Death

Some of you have probably heard that Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died this morning from a gunshot wound during an apparent burglary of his home Sunday night. I read just now that a black sportswriter named Zuri Berry told his colleagues at the National Association of Black Journalists that the AP story on Taylor's death "provides a laundry list of transgressions Taylor had" that he feels are not important to this event. For those of you who don't follow sports, Taylor had several off-field problems as well as notable incidents of bad behavior on the field. He was fined at least seven times for on-field incidents such as when he spit on a Tampa Bay player during a playoff game two years ago. Apparently, this writer feels that background should not be mentioned in the story covering Taylor's death, but I must disagree. True, the fines he received for on-field transgressions did not lead to his death, but they are certainly an important part of his story. Berry argues that there is no scandal here, just tragedy, so past scandals of Taylor's are not relevant. However, I think that people should know about his background, including his run-ins with the law or the NFL. I am not saying the story should imply that Taylor's death is not a tragedy because he had problems in his life, but I do not think the story should ignore these facts either.

LA Times creates readers' interactive blog

I was looking over Romenesko when I saw a link to an article about a new blog launched today by the Los Angeles Times, called the Readers' Representative Journal, which explains the paper's editorial decisions. I couldn't believe what a good idea this was and that I had never heard of any other paper creating a similar blog. Readers can ask questions about stories, the story behind the story and even be grammar snobs by critiquing the paper's grammar usage. Reporters and various editors respond to the readers' questions. I think this is an awesome resource for readers' to get more information on the stories they read, and they might be more likely to ask questions on an online discussion board rather than personally contacting the reporter. Other newspapers need to pick up on this important forum and incorporate their own forms of it on their Web sites. Already there are two interesting and informative question-and-answer entries on the blog. They were: the use of "he said" after a quote obtained through e-mail, and the Times' naming of an undercover cop who was run over by a suspect. Several reporters and editors, often with different views, respond to these concerns, giving the topics a multitude of expert opinion and information. This is an awesome resource for copy editors to see what kinds of issues readers are concerned about and even how to avoid pitfalls in the field. Everyone should check it out!

Whoa -- now they're just *asking* for it

The logo for New York magazine contains the sylized "New" that is used in this ad, which is a "cover wrap" for New York magazine. It was sent to a "select" group of subscribers/readers, but it's causing a general brouhaha because of how it's gone against understood ethical standards against allowing magazine covers to be co-opted for advertising purposes. Romenesko links to this blog entry: 'New York' bending the rules with cover wrap?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cutting out the copy editors?

David Montgomery from the European newspaper group Mecom has openly the questioned the need for copy editors. "'Reporters out in the field can call up a page on their laptop and put copy straight onto the page without intervention,' he said. 'I see a situation where experienced journalists that can be trusted have no barrier to communication with their audience,' he said. He endorses an environment in which 'journalists can be freed from humdrum roles and the sub-editing culture can break down.'" Sub-editing is essentially copy editing. This news comes to the chagrin of the Baltimore Sun's John McIntyre. McIntyre makes the point that editing is what allows for reporters to look good and present factually accurate stories to the public. While Montgomery does have an interesting proposal, but it is not feasible.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Power of design font

I saw this on the New York Times Web site and thought it was a pretty interesting and fun example of a slide show. But more than that, I think it shows just how powerful (or weak) the right font and design can be. Though it focuses on political campaign posters, I definitely think it applies to page design. I wonder what our pages are really saying...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NY Times review of its new building

I read an article in "Editor & Publisher" at the Poynter Institute Web site about how the New York Times' architecture critic had to review the paper's new building. According to the article, the institute's ethics group leader said it was OK that the paper's critic reviewed his own building. But I think it was a tad unnecessary considering that it may have looked slanted to the public and other media professionals. The E&P article said the critic opened his review discussing the questionable position he was put in, which is why the institute's ethics leader cleared him of subjectivity. Personally, if I was a copy editor or editor at the paper, I would have ran just a news story about the new building, with commentary from other architects, people on the street and perhaps other papers' architecture critics. That would have sufficed in place of the paper's own commentary. As a copy editor/designer at the Times faced with the review, I definitely would have placed it on the op/ed page or made it the paper's editorial for the day. It might have even needed a disclaimer. I don't know where the Times ended up placing it, but I'm sure it was accurately labeled as commentary. It seems the paper may have threatened its own credibility for a review that perhaps wasn't all that important. What does everyone else think?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Local style

How useful is a newspaper's local style, anyway? In transfering from the Tribune to the Republic, I've noticed the differences in local style between the two papers and also how often it can be confusing and unnecessary. How often do people notice local style rules, and even when they do, it's usually because it has differed from other news outlets (at least in my experience). Do these differences add anything or do they serve to simply make stories more confusing and copy editors feel important in formatting stories according to these rules? I'm not sure, but it seems like there can be a uniform way to do things, and it seems that way should be Associated Press style. For example, the Republic capitalizes "Black" and "White" when they refer to races. The Tribune and AP do not cap them. The Republic hyphenates any and every compound modifier and AP doesn't hyphenate ones where it is obvious what is being modified. Those are just a few instances where local style differs, and those differences can end up confusing the reader as they try to adapt to changing format styles.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is it a blurb? A cutline?

And what's that byline doing there if this is a blurb? Check out the first sentence that isn't a sentence; it's a label. Was this a mistake or a new online form?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Run-ins with reporters/editors

Since we were talking about problems with reporters and editors in class today, it reminded me of one time I had a major issue when copy editing a story. It was one of my first days interning on the copy desk at the Tribune, and I got into a seriously heated discussion with the night editor. It wasn't too bad because I had done some reporting there a few months ago, and she regularly edited my stories so we knew each other pretty well. But the issue was about a story on a teacher who has just been fired because the school found out he had been convicted of murder, but the conviction had later been overturned. In the story, a school mom gave a quote that said something along the lines of "I don't want a convicted murderer teaching my child." So that set something off in my head -- we couldn't have some random lady libeling this guy a murderer, because though he was convicted, the charge was erased from his record and could no longer be labeled that. I went to the editor about it and she told me not to worry about it, and we debated for awhile, but I ended up walking away thinking it would be fine to keep the quote in the story. But when I read it again, I was convinced it was wrong, told my boss about it, and she talked to the editor about it. My boss came away also thinking it was fine. But we discussed it further, looked up definitions for murder and agreed that it was in fact not OK. So my boss went back to talk to the editor, the editor consented and then came in to where our desks were. She ended up cursing while saying we should just come talk to her once not a million times for an issue. I was offended, but my boss told me not to worry about it and talked to her later. All in all, it was an interesting way to start out at a job, but I didn't back down from what I knew was wrong and libelous, and I ended up being right and we took the quote out of the story.

Steroid reporters joining ESPN

I just read this story about a couple of very prominent reporters who have covered steroid sports stories in the recent past joining ESPN. Apparently ESPN is putting together a 15-person enterprise unit that will do investigative stories, and two of the people in that unit will be Mark Fainaru-Wada, who gained fame while with The San Francisco Chronicle for his reporting on baseball's steroid problems, and TJ Quinn, who broke several big steroid-related stories for The New York Post. Also, ESPN said these two will not just do steroid stories, but other investigative stories as well. I think this is another sign of ESPN getting more serious about its journalism. They recently began an investigate reporting show called E:60, and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, they just signed Rick Reilly, who is probably the most renowned sportswriter in the country. ESPN takes a lot of heat for its lack of true reporting, and I think the organization is responding by trying to improve itself with these new developments. I really think these moves will help ESPN and sports journalism as a whole.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Youtube is more than funny videos

CNN reported that the person who killed eight students and injured others in Finland had posted videos possibly foreshadowing the deadly school shooting. Youtube apparently removed 89 videos associated with the student, some of which contained images of his gun and "Nazi imagery." Often when many people think of Youtube, funny homemade videos come to mind, but it is scary to think that people can use the site to plan or advertise their deadly intentions or worldviews.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Step in the Wrong Direction

With all of the turmoil in Pakistan right now, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has taken away the free press liberties that he had previously granted the media. The action is out of fear that his opposition will use the media as a way to voice their opinions. He has already blacked out television news channels like BBC and CNN. The local media has broadcast the opposition response to some of Musharraf's actions and he clearly wants that to stop. He still hasn't really gone after newspapers or the internet, but the possibility exists. It is a shame that this sort of censorship still occurs.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Editing disasters

Here are some funny examples of bad editing that i found to be pretty humorous!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book reviews

If you *haven't* already told me your choice, feel free to sign up here. :-)

Odd Dow Jones question

I don't know if anyone else took the Dow Jones exam, but I thought one of the news questions it asked was really odd and inappropriate. It asked you to fill in the blank with the racial slur that Don Imus used against the Rutgers women's basketball team. Is that weird to anyone else but me? I understand it was a huge news story, but I think it's in bad taste for the question to be set up in a way that forces someone to write in "nappy-headed hos." People taking the test shouldn't be forced to write a racial slur. There could have been a blank for "Rutgers" or something instead. I was really shocked by it and think Dow Jones made a big mistake in its setup of that question.

Layering and A1

Many thanks to Andrew Long for guesting in class yesterday and for critiquing some class work. Much of what he said involved "layering," an attempt by contemporary news designers to provide information in usable "chunks" and in related packages that appeal visually, intellectually, practically. I've posted three examples of papers that did some layering with their main stories.
Since your assignment (due Monday) is to revisit your A1 pages and apply layering techniques, these should be helpful. Don't neglect visiting newseum and pulling other examples. It's one of the best ways to learn. Also, Poynter's Page One Today blog offers many examples of news judgment expressed in design. The three pages I just posted came from there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FEMA's "press conference"

I just read this story about FEMA's press conference about the California wildfires. Apparently, FEMA just had their own employees attend the press conference, which was announced just 15 minutes before it started, and had them ask what amounted to softball questions. They only allowed real reporters to telephone in to the conference and listen in, but they could not ask any questions. Of course, FEMA is taking a major hit over this, which certainly seems appropriate. This organization came under tremendous fire for its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and here they manipulated the news in an attempt to make themselves look better. I think FEMA would have been better off just not answering any questions rather than staging a press conference that only damaged their credibility even further. I was just very surprised that any group would be so foolish to try to pull off such a deceptive strategy.

Stunning fire photo has backstory

LAObserved, an online journal of media and place, asks whether this LA Times photo might capture a Pulitzer. <<[P]hotographer Karen Tapia-Anderson ... said that as she watched flames trap a dozen members of Engine Company 22, then saw them deploy their flimsy fire shelters as a last resort, she started to cry. "I felt that they weren't going to make it," she said. "I began to pray for those guys." After fifteen minutes they emerged one by one, a sight that Tapia-Anderson called "awesome." >>

Monday, October 29, 2007

The problem with news outlets using blogs

I've used the Journal-Sentinel before to talk about the multimedia sports coverage it offers, but not the website also illustrates the downside of blogs. Because of the free, conversational nature of the writing, editing appears to be less critical. For example, the Wisconsin Badgers blog has a quote from football coach Bret Bielema: "It's just a difficult situation because of how it al went down to begin with," he added. "We tried to bring some new information. I thought there might be a change in the way things happened but there wasn't." I added the bold to make a point. The blog post lost some force for me with the misspelling. It also hurts the Web site's credibility because if they don't edit the blogs, the staffers may not edit the stories well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sox Rock! pulled out the stops to reflect the excitement of a Red Sox win. Notice how newspaper design principles apply to this Web page, one that is in the vangard of news site layout.

Oops. Get that punctuation right

From Romenesko:
Steelworkers want apology for $817K error in WSJ editorial
United Steelworkers release | Wall Street Journal
A Wall Street Journal editorial said on Monday: "Forms have also revealed that union leaders are not exactly members of the proletariat: Jimmy Warren, Treasurer of the Steelworkers and AFL-CIO makes $825,262 a year." Actually, he makes $8,252.62 a year and he's not "treasurer of the Steelworkers." The union is unhappy with the Journal's "inadequate, out-of-context correction" and wants an apology.

This makes me so sad

I weep ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reilly leaves SI

Not sure how many of you all read sports magazines, but I just saw that Rick Reilly is leaving Sports Illustrated and going to ESPN Magazine. I have heard in the last few years that SI had lost some of the luster it had in the past, but Reilly's name and reputation really helped to keep them relevant. I wonder if this is, in some ways, a changing of the guard in the sports magazine business. ESPN Magazine, although it only started about 10 years ago, is a very different take on sports journalism than SI, and maybe Reilly's move is a signal that the ESPN approach is working better. For example, I noticed that Reilly is also going to be doing some TV and online work along with his magazine columns. Basically, ESPN Magazine is more than just a magazine. It works in concert with TV, the Web, etc. I just wonder if the SI approach is too rooted in the past, before sports news was available 24 hours a day on TV and the Internet. People don't need to wait a week for a magazine to let us know what happened in sports because we can find out immediately. Granted, Reilly is just one person, but he's one of the most prominent sportswriters in recent history, and I think his move is very significant to sports journalism.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Times Owners Arrested

The two owners of the Phoenix-based New Times, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, were arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies for an article in Thursday's issues. The charges were for making public the fact that the New Times had received a Grand Jury subpoena. The two were arrested because the Grand Jury proceedings are supposed to be secret and the information was leaked in an article under their byline. There is some thought that the arrests are payback for critical articles that were written about Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in the New Times. This case has some serious repercussions for freedom of the press issues. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Kentucky mother's struggle through drug court

Al Tompkins, of Poynter, has a full writeup of a weeklong project by the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader that will, in his words, "consume 18 inside pages, 15 minutes of online multimedia and more than 130 photos." Tompkins explores how the project came together -- it took four years.

Readers question news judgment for centerpiece

Romenesko carried this blurb today:
SacBee readers gripe about prominent play for atheists story
Sacramento Bee
A story about atheists was a recent Bee Metro centerpiece, while a piece about a church gathering got secondary play. "Well, as you might imagine, the juxtaposition caused more than a few Christian readers to complain about how offended they were and ask whether The Bee had lost its way," writes Armando Acuna. "Those who criticize the paper for publishing the atheists' story or for 'taking sides' by making it the centerpiece don't understand what we do."

I'd really like to read more about it, but I clicked over to the newspaper site and was confronted with a request to register. Ten minutes later, confounded by registering when I'd evidently previously registered, a subsequent wait for my forgotten password to be mailed, etc., I'd totally determined to cut and paste the entire story here as a protest against news site registrations, which I detest. Alas, foiled again. Once onto the site (I'm really stubborn), I couldn't find any trace of the story. So now this post is a complaint about online sites that don't carry the full range of news debate with regard to the print edition. So all I can do at this point is refer you to Romenesko, who has other tasty links related to this kind of story available.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wisconsin AG comments cause stir

Apparently, Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen is under fire for telling residents of Crandon, Wis., a city in which a part-time police officer is suspected of killing six people earlier this month, that they should not talk to the media about the incident. A spokesman for Van Hollen said that he was just passing on the wishes of the victims' families, but media outlets in the state are upset at what he said, because they believe he does not have the authority to tell people to remain silent and that he is just trying to make the media's job more difficult. Also, one principle of his campaign last year was that government should be transparent and information should be more readily available to the public, yet these comments seem contrary to that. However, one person in this article says the media is too aggressive in covering these stories and lack concern for the people involved. I just thought this was an interesting story, because it is important that the media covers stories like this that affect the community. On the other hand, I agree that sometimes reporters should be a bit more respectful and realize that people are emotional in situations like this, so they should not just be treated as a means to the end of producing an interesting story. I'm not really sure the state's AG should be telling people not to talk to the media, but I can understand if the people involved in this story just want to be left alone and not have cameras and reporters in their faces all the time. I think this is an issue where there is no absolute right or wrong, which makes it interesting to look at.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Partially trapped? Partially? Trapped is trapped.

NORFOLK — A man operating a steamroller was killed Wednesday afternoon in an accident, police said.

It happened in the 6500 block of Tidewater Drive around 1:45 p.m.

The man was operating the steamroller when it went over a small ledge and tipped on its side, partially trapping the man.

The man was pronounced dead on the way to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The State Press

I was confused by a story in The State Press today with the headline "Interfraternity Council changes alcohol policies." The deck reads "Revisions are not in response to recent sexual allegations, president says." However, the first sentence reads, "In light of recent sexual assault allegations against the Greek Community, the ASU Interfraternity Council met Monday and passed what its president called an "extremely strict" event policy to prevent future incidents." Some readers, including me, might interpret the deck and lead as being contradictory statements. The first sentence seems to say that changes were made in response to the allegations. I found myself asking, "Well, which is it?" Also, I found the graph on the front page misleading. For example, it shows that arson is up 200 percent. This is shocking news to some, but when you take into account that there were no arson incidents in 2005 and 2 in 2006, it doesn't seem so shocking (at least to me). Did anyone else find it somewhat misleading?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Good design is key to attracting readers

BusinessWeek redesigned their magazine to make it more reader-friendly and increase sales by taking into account "readers' time and the fact that news is available around the clock." This just shows you how important design is to attracting readers.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

AP and CNN covering the same story

The Associated Press and CNN each posted a new article on the shooting rampage by a law enforcement official in Wisconsin. The two articles appeared within 30 minutes of each other. AP has a reporter on the scene and the writing reflects that. His article is more complete than the CNN report, which relies on radio station reports for the article. Granted the AP story was posted later than the CNN article, but AP was willing to commit to six dead and a seventh in the hospital while CNN was only able to say that at least five had died.

A copy editor's dream column

Or is that "copy-editor"? A friend sent me the link to Charles McGrath's column in today's New York Times and I pass it along to you. It was accompanied by Ellen Lupton's graphic, left.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Autopsy Story Blocked

So, apparently a Boston judge issued a decision earlier this week that stopped a TV station from airing a report about the autopsies done on two firefighters that were killed in a restaurant fire in August. The autopsies showed the firefighters had been drinking and using drugs when they died, so obviously this was going to be negative publicity for the city's fire department. Also, the judge who made this ruling is the former chief of staff and legal counsel for the mayor of Boston, which suggests a possible conflict of interest when deciding a case that will reflect poorly on city officials. This story here from the Media Nation blog mentions the 1931 US Supreme Court case of Near v. Minnesota, a case that we recently discussed in my Media Law class, which sets out three narrow categories of expression that can be constitutionally subject to prior restraint. It doesn't seem this report about the autopsy results would fit any of them. Granted, I don't know every intricacy of this case and decision, but this seems to be an unconstitutional prior restraint. It just seemed like a surprising ruling to me, and I wonder if it will be appealed and the case will continue moving up through the court system.

Story folo raises Big Picture questions

Note the multiple media elements of this folo report on Carol Gotbaum's death at Sky Harbor. There's the main text story with links to other text reports, a source video from the airport, a statement from her family, a collection of witness quotes supplied by the Phoenix police, a still image with cutline material, and a host of "reader" comments that range from the astute to crude, rude and ludicrous. The question with which many editors grapple is which parts of this package should be edited, and to what extent? It brings up a larger issue: what is the goal of having something edited? Literacy? Fairness? Basic intelligence? The avoidance of libel? Public service? Copy editors have a responsibility to protect their publication from looking stupid or doing harm. Does that mean only publication employees -- reporters, editors, producers, etc. -- have the benefit of someone cleaning up their language and double-checking their thought processes? Do they only have that protection when they're reporting in certain genres -- in a "story" form rather than in a blog, for example? Should members of the public have that protection as well -- which means, suddenly, that copy editors are responsible for editing material from people they don't know, have no newsroom ties to, and did not agree to edit when they signed on for the job? We are in the turmoil of genuine upheaval as we transition toward a new journalism: same principles, perhaps, but vastly different modes of expression and accountability. Fascinating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

History of the byline

A journalism history listserv was asked how the byline came about and this response appeared this morning:
Gen. Joseph Hooker invented the byline. As commander of the Army of the Potomac, Hooker was very security-conscious. Convinced that Northern newspapers were publishing sensitive information of great value to the South, he halted a practice his soldiers had followed of trading newspapers with the enemy during cease fires. To underscore his concern, he then prosecuted the New York Herald's correspondent, Edwin F. Denyse, for a story alleging that the Union Army was preparing to take the field for an offensive that would occur "at the earliest possible moment." Although the story was utterly wrong, the general had Denyse arrested because he might get the story right the next time. A military commission tried the reporter in the command's provost marshal's office, convicted him, and sentenced him to six-months of hard labor. Hooker commuted the sentence, but he had made his point. His next move was considerably more original. To that point, virtually all news stories had been anonymous. The redoubtable William Howard Russell, for example, was known to readers of The London Times only as "Our Own Special Correspondent." In order to force the press to be more responsible, the general ordered newsmen covering his command to put their names on any stories that saw print. If they or their editors failed to do so, the offending correspondent would be banished and his journal banned from sale to the troops. This was a considerable threat because newspapers often made big money selling their product to the troops before and after battles. The papers complied, and the byline came into being. You can find the whole story footnoted in Stephen W. Sears wonderful history, Chancellorsville (New York: Houghton Mifflin, Mariner Books, 1998), p. 75.

William M. Hammond

I hadn't heard this history before; I dimly thought that bylines had originated during the Penny Press era as had so much of current newspaper tradition. If anyone has a different citation, please add!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Judging the relevance of sources

Tonight in my science writing class, we were presented with an interesting topic. Our guest speaker, who has studied science writing but has also been on the public medical side, said that many journalists often give the wrong idea about a science story by presenting both sides equally.

As journalists, we're taught to always get both sides of the story, so the idea of putting more importance on one source over another is a little hard for me to grasp. I think the discretion is more important in science articles, when the importance of one study might outweigh the validity of another. But it just seems strange still to think that the journalist has the right to weigh the importance of sources.

But if you think about it, every time there's an article about space exploration, you don't have to get a quote from someone who still believes the world is flat.

Any thoughts?

I'm just glad he's not a reporter

Daily Star named teen who was strip-searched...

...then reconsidered and removed her name from the online story. See the explanation and policy here.

Should journalists mine Facebook for data?

The current American Journalism Review explores the ethical and journalistic implications of using "dirty data" and self-selected information in contextualizing stories, finding ties between people, getting contact information and lifting quotes from social networking sites. Here's an excerpt from the article:
For example, a Boston Globe story this summer about the allure gangs hold for young people--particularly those with an older sibling in a gang--referenced the MySpace page of 21-year-old Gary Brown, who had been accused in the shooting death of two Georgia men. Brown's younger brothers, ages 7 and 12, regularly log on to his MySpace page to listen to his rap group, Soldiers Only Live Once. One paragraph illustrated the influence of older gang members on the next generation, as the story pointed out that the group is what the younger boys listen to on their front porch.

Other reporters have found that MySpace can be a resource in determining which gangs control what turf, and if shootings--based on "R.I.P." and other comments left online--are gang-related.

Burma? Myanmar? Yangon? Rangoon? It's more than 'potato, potaahto...'

H.D.S. Greenway in The Boston Globe devotes a column ("Playing the Name Game") to how different publications work with the names of places that are more familiar in their previous name incarnations. Do you correct a source? Do you explain? Do you describe the political implications, if any, that might adhere to one of the names?

What exactly is the media entitled to know?

Here's an interesting story about how several news media organizations has taken the government to court so they can access the government's investigation into the Crandall Canyon (Utah) mine accident. Apparently the Mine Safety and Health Administration (part of the Department of Labor) is not exactly forthcoming about what happened, or what information they've discovered. In this particular case, I think the media organizations are right -- I see no valid reason why this information cannot be made public. Thoughts? Is there ever justification for NOT allowing the media to have all information about a topic or event, e.g., the war in Iraq?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Stories are miles apart on death of N.Y. woman in PHX airport cell

I first saw this story when I logged on to AOL this morning. The splash page had the image, seen in this post, along with a link to the AP story. At about 8 a.m., there were about 10,000 comments posted to the online report. By noon, there were close to 17,000. That amazed me. But what amazed me more was comparing the Republic's report to one in the (New York) Daily News after a friend suggested I take a look. In one, the police reports are unquestioned. In the other, airline workers are quoted as saying the woman called for help and said she was sick. My alert friend, DeWitt Smith, later sent me the links to The New York Times and CNN stories. I urge you to look at all of these. If you are interested in extra credit, do some more digging in other places -- don't forget the print versions -- and be prepared to talk in class Wednesday about the differences you find in the reporting. UPDATE: The East Valley Tribune posted a deftly backgrounded story at 5:54 a.m.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Should students be held to the same standards as professionals?

The State Press (along with countless other news organizations) wrote about the controversial message recently published in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, Colorado State University's student newspaper. Whether or not you agree that it was necessary to use such explicit language to get the message across, the editor, David McSwane, was fired because of it. In this article, Joe Strupp argues that the student should not have been fired. He writes that for McSwane to be treated like a professional "who has been around a while, and should know better, is also inappropriate. " He raises an interesting and important question: "Should a senior in college be given the same scrutiny for a lapse in judgment that Dan Rather gets for using questionable documents in a report on the president?"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Britney Spears and nudity... what's new?

A link on the home page of Slate today linked to an article with the teaser "Is it OK for Kids to See Their Parents Naked?"

I thought this article sounded intriguing (plus I love Slate explainers). But as I began reading, this is what I found:

Should Kids See Their Parents Naked?

The supposed dangers of familial nudity.

Is it okay for your kid to see you like this?  Click image to expand.

A court commissioner has ordered Britney Spears to undergo random drug and alcohol testing as well as meet with a parenting coach for eight hours each week. The pop star has been excoriated for her parenting blunders; she reportedly feeds her children junk food, whitens their teeth, and, according to a former bodyguard, regularly parades around them in the nude. What effect does parental nudity have on a young child?


I was a little disappointed in Slate... What is the point in bringing Britney Spears in? I was confused at first -- I thought I clicked on the wrong article. Then after reading, I got the connection, though it still doesn't make 100 percent sense to me.

I just find it a little irritating that some newspapers and magazines will use whatever sensational news there is right now to get the public to read something...

I really expected more from Slate.

Clinton GQ Story

I saw this story today about how GQ was going to run an article this summer about in-fighting inside the campaign of Hillary Clinton. However they were told by the Clinton campaign that if they ran the story, they would lose access to Bill Clinton, who they planned to have on their cover of December's issue. The editor of GQ, Jim Nelson, says that they did decide not to run the article, but he refused to answer any other questions on the issue. I certainly think this is dangerous territory to get into, but it seems to be happening more and more. This article mentions that many Hollywood stars have gone this route as well, and it specifically mentions how Tom Cruise's publicists have required interviewers to sign statements saying they would not write anything derogatory about him. I also know that some sports stars have used this same strategy, threatening to or actually denying access to reporters or news outlets they feel have not treated them correctly. I'm not really sure what can be done about it, because you can't force people to submit to the media, but it certainly seems to be an emerging issue in journalism.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Media impact on the O.J. trial

There is a very anti-O.J. bias in the media coverage on television and that prevents a neutral evaluation of the case. Sports writer Jason Whitlock wrote in his NFL column for that the television media is poisoning the jury pool for the O.J. Simpson armed robbery trial by perpetuating the obsession with Simpson in order to attract viewers. The coverage is overshadowing other, and in Whitlock's opinion, more important stories like the "Jena Six" case. Whitlock's arguments also seem to hold true for online coverage of the Simpson case. ran an Associated Press article that puts together a potential series of events for the Las Vegas robbery compiled from interviews and police reports. The article does make clear that the sides disagree on what happened, but the story spends more time focused on the arguments that make Simpson look bad. The media has to be responsible and acknowledge that all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and stop trying to convict Simpson in the court of public opinion.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Power of a hed

This week, an ad in The New York Times caused quite a stir.
Here's the MoveOn web site where there are links to documents backing the group's argument as well as a pdf version of the full ad. Poynter's Roy Peter Clark writes off of the controversy, taking it as a way into discussion of why your "darling" headlines maybe ought not to run. Here's a take-out from his article:
I think what we have here is more than a failure to communicate. It's a seduction by creativity, an insincerity mated to hyperbole to meet the demands of a snarky and polarized political culture. The headline writer should have followed the advice, almost a century old now, of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who lectured his Cambridge students that "style ... can never be ... extraneous ornament ... Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it -- whole-heartedly -- and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

no txtng n phx

The Phoenix City Council today approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.
This action comes after recent tragedies that have occurred in Arizona and other states involving drivers text messaging while driving a vehicle.
“Composing, sending or receiving text messages while driving is extremely distracting and dangerous for drivers and puts everyone who is using the roadway at risk,” said Councilman Greg Stanton, who spearheaded the effort.
“This new ordinance will protect those using the road and help prevent further tragedies.”
The ordinance will take effect immediately, however there will be a 30-day warning period from Sept. 20 to Oct. 19.
More here.

When is photo manipulation ok?

In this case, CBS got in trouble for "slenderizing" Ms. Couric. But is it okay to remove gray hairs? Fix teeth? Hide a visible bra strap? Working in magazine publishing, I see a lot of this kind of stuff -- and some of it is necessary and positive. But in photojournalism, things are different. Where is the line?

Thoughts? (I know what I think, but I'm soliciting feedback.)
: )

Even the pros need editing

Here was the beginning of a story I was reading this morning in the Arizona Republic about ASU football.

"Running back Ryan Torain practiced. So did free safety Josh Barrett.
The defensive tackle wore a boot on his left foot because of an injury suffered early against San Diego State on Saturday."

As I quickly read the start of this article, I thought it was Torain wearing the boot on his left foot, and as an ASU football fan, I started to worry about why the starting running back had a boot on his left foot when he missed last week with a sprained right ankle. I also wondered how someone could practice when wearing a boot.

So, I read the opening sentences again, and saw it said, "the defensive tackle wore a boot." Who was the defensive tackle? The next sentence said, "The boot is for precautionary measures, and Marquardt will play Saturday, ASU coach Dennis Erickson said." Finally, I knew who was wearing the boot, but he was never identified by his full name, so unless you followed ASU football, you still wouldn't know who Marquardt was. I'm guessing this story was cut quickly and nobody paid attention to whether the article had complete information, or it was just a poorly written article that did not receive very careful editing. Either way, even though this is just a short story, it did not get the attention it deserved from the paper's editors. That can only lead to readers being confused and frustrated, which can never be a good thing for a newspaper.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Slate: Prescription woes beat Mukasey for USAT lead

USA Today's news judgment takes a hit in Slate's "Today's Papers" today:
In its lead story, USAT focuses on a new federal rule that aims to crack down on Medicaid fraud by requiring prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant paper. But doctors are complaining that the rule can't be implemented by the time it goes into effect. "In our state, very few doctors use these kinds of pads," says one doc. Perhaps that's why the law was passed. What TP really wants to know is when did it become so difficult to buy paper? Still, USAT says that "if a patient has a prescription on the wrong type of paper, pharmacists can fill it while seeking the prescriber's confirmation by phone, fax, e-mail or tamper-proof paper within three days." So, what's the problem? This was more important than the Mukasey nomination?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Headlines are tricky

When I first read this headline from the Arizona Republic, I misunderstood it completely. My original understanding of the headline was that a man was suspected of firing a gun at an officer who was in custody. Then I thought, "There's no way I read that correctly." I had to read it again in order to realize that what the reporter meant was that the man who was suspected of firing a gun at the officer was put into custody. Thus, as this headline shows, word order in a headline can change its intended meaning and confuse (some) readers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sports coverage online

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel utilizes photos, articles and webcasts for its online sports coverage. Columnist Michael Hunt issues a weekly report called Mike's Monologue in which he comments on a few major local and national sports stories. He also writes a regular column. JSOnline has also utilized the web's ability to connect instantaneously with people. For the University of Wisconsin-Citadel football game, there was a running weblog and updating box score during the game as well as a game preview and post-game report. I really like the set-up and found their coverage to be well-rounded and accurate.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Such style!

If you haven't come to know the NewsDesigner blog, this is a great time to get acquainted. It has images of all the pages of the Washington Post's redesigned Style & Arts section.

Footnotes in newspaper series

NEW YORK In an unusual book-type approach to news, The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. is running a 15-part series on a local convicted killer, but with a twist. In an effort to use a long-form narrative, which Editor Jim Willse says lends itself better to the unusual story, the paper is including footnotes with each installment, both online and in print.

"This is our answer to a classic challenge in long form - how do you attribute without breaking up the narrative?" Willse said Monday, a day after the series began. "In this kind of series, when we are going back in time, we are recounting conversations. It is terribly important for the reader to know how we could give such verbatim conversations."

For the rest of the Editor & Publisher story, click here.

Libel can be tricky...

I was editing an AP story at the East Valley Tribune, a follow-up about the UA student who was arrested on suspicion of stabbing her roommate to death. Libel was easy to avoid in that sentence by simply saying "arrested on suspicion of" instead of "arrested for" but other forms make it harder to detect. I often look at AP stories as being infallible and already perfect before I even lay eyes on them. But it's not true. When I read the following paragraph (the nut graf of the story) I'm sorry to say it didn't jump out at me as something that should be corrected, or even questioned (which is hard to admit - but I figure we are all learning right?):

"But before 18-year-old Galareka Harrison killed Mia Henderson, she forged a note in which the victim purportedly admitted falsely accusing her roommate and 'mentioned ending her own life,' university police Officer Mario Leon wrote in a sworn statement."

The first several words basically say this girl is already guilty, and she had just been arrested. The reporter made an effort to say "purportedly" when referencing the victim, but the accused got no such luck. The problem that I think made me gloss over this is the fact that this is what the police officer's sworn statement says, and the reporter also attributed it to court papers (in the first paragraph of the story). But I realized, after the next person on the copy desk read this and had a problem with the sentence, that the libelous phrase was paraphrased. It wasn't a direct quote and so it could be rewritten in a way that protected the girl who was arrested. The person who spotted it changed it so the version in the newpaper read: "Before Mia Henderson was killed ..." though in the online version the original phrase is still used.

I'd like to think I was just having an bad day because I have caught big stuff like this before (I swear I'm not this bad)!!! Just something to think about, though!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oops! They need an AP Stylebook!

I found some errors in this article from The headline sounds off. It should read "Advocates of sex abuse victims seek place at Pope John Paul II memorial." Also, there is a sentence that reads, "On Tuesday morning, Babb walked through the doors of the diocese, followed be the media, and handed the letter to Jim Dwyer, director of public information for the Diocese." I'm just guessing, but I think the reporter meant to say "followed by the media." The last sentence did not follow AP style.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Someone needs a word quiz

I was just reading an AP story by Doug Ferguson about Tiger Woods' 60th career victory yesterday, and here is a small part of it:

"Remember, it was only 13 months ago at the Buick Open that Woods reached his 50th career victory. Since then, he has won 10 times in 19 starts.
'Not bad, eh?' was the best response Woods could find.
But he smiled and half-jokingly said another slump was eminent if he went a couple of tournaments without winning.
Woods has been dealing with such expectations for the last eight years, and there are times he gets too sensitive over any critique of his game."

I knew it didn't look right as soon as I read it, and indeed, it wasn't. Another slump would not be eminent, meaning to stand out above others. It would be imminent, or impending. I guess even the best writers confuse words like that at times.

Republic alters its format

Today's front section of the Arizona Republic had a note from editor Ward Bushee letting readers know that the Republic has decided not to continue it's shortened format on Mondays for "time-starved readers." This means that the Monday edition will be like every other day of the week. I like the traditional style and was not a big fan of the brief articles that the "time-starved" format thrived on. I found myself wanting more information and going online (frequently to a source other than Republic off-shoot to find it. It was a good idea for the Republic and worth taking a chance on, but I'm glad the powers-that-be recognized the mistake and corrected it. It would be interesting to see the sales figures for the Republic on Mondays before the change and after.

(note: the link for this will probably reset next Monday because it is just a pdf of the front page)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

This is news?

On Sunday, the home page of had a story about Britney Spear's attempt to make a comeback at the MTV Video Music Awards as one of its main stories. It was accompanied by a large picture of her dancing provocatively. Was Sunday a slow-news day? I know that there were more important stories affecting Arizonans this weekend. Why not direct our attention to something worthwhile?

Both sides of the story

A student at the University of Arizona was on the receiving end of two stun gun blasts outside of Arizona Stadium on Saturday. The article talks about how the student became combative and assaulted a police officer (according to the police report). The student was turned away from the game because the student section was oversold. I cannot believe that the reporter did not get a comment that would illustrate the frustration on behalf of students who were turned away.

In no way am I condoning what the student did, but the reporter has an obligation to get both sides of the story. Even if the student who was stunned and arrested could not comment, someone else who was turned away could have expressed similar feelings. I just think that the reporting job could have been more thorough.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shaq's Divorce

Sorry to keep going to the sports well for my blog posts, but that's a great deal of what I read. Anyway, one of the big stories of the day on many sports sites (and probably some general news sites as well) has been Shaquille O'Neal filing for divorce from his wife. Now Shaq is certainly a big star in both the sports and entertainment world, but should his divorce really be a news story? This has nothing to do with what he is famous for - his basketball abilities - and it is not as though there were any crimes committed, such as a domestic violence charge, which led to his divorce. It just seems like sports personalities are starting to become more and more like the entertainment world stars (actors, singers, etc.) where their personal lives are being covered as news stories. Just last week, a big story was Tom Brady's ex-girlfriend giving birth to his child. Who cares? It has nothing to do with Brady's football play. As long as Shaq and Brady are still playing their sport and their personal lives are not affecting their play in any significant way, why are their personal stories in the news? I just don't think these are stories, but I wonder what anyone else thinks about this.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

There has to be something more important

Tonight, had the Leona Helmsley dog story as the sixth article in the news section. It was actually listed higher than an article about Fred Thompson announcing his candidacy for president and an article about Steve Fossett, the missing adventurer. I am sure that there are people who need to know about the issues surrounding who will care for Trouble, the $12 million dog, but that is ridiculous.
I recognize that there is a place for soft, Trouble Helmsley related news, but it should not be next to articles about Hurricane Felix and a mine accident. It seems like poor taste.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Would you print this?

I found this on the Poynter Web site. The Carroll Daily Times Herald took a photo of the Carroll High School football team in which three or four team members made inappropriate hand gestures. The gesture, some say, has a sexual connotation. In this case, I'm not sure I would even publish the photo with the gesture blurred. What do you think?

...and copy editors cringe...

This I found in an otherwise interesting little publication called "Eco-Structure." My apologies; I couldn't scan the whole page because it's oversized, and for some unknown reason this story was not included in the pub's online archives. Imagine that. However, since the error announces itself in the headline, I wasn't too worried about the rest of the page. Initially, I thought it was a play on words...but as I worked my way through the body copy (finding another similar error in the process), I slowly realized that yes, it was a legitimate error -- and a huge one.

Is it just that copy editors don't get paid enough? : ) That's it! If we paid copy editors what we pay brain surgeons, these errors wouldn't happen! On the other hand, that would give rise to a whole new industry...copy editor malpractice. I can see it now...spurious lawsuits...attorneys raking in thousands of dollars arguing the usage of "their" vs. "there"...witnesses weeping on the stand..."but I thought it WAS a compound modifier!"

: )

As English teachers everywhere weep...

I will be following with a more "publishing-relevant" post shortly, but I wanted to share this rather sad example of spelling gone awry. Does anyone else find such notices as painful as I do? It's enough to make me want to carry around a red pen... : (

Friday, August 31, 2007

SEO brings old news to light -- unfairly?

Poynter's E-media TidBits column today explores some of the unintended consequences of "search engine optimization" -- the process whereby ads (or, in this case, related stories) are "summoned" to a Web page because of keywords in a story or story element (headlines, cutlines, behind-the-scenes coding, etc.)
In a nutshell, the Times recently implemented a search optimization strategy that increased traffic to its site -- especially to its voluminous archives. This meant that stories from decades past suddenly appeared quite prominently in current search-engine results.
So an important question arises: is this journalistically and ethically sound practice? Can we shrug our editing shoulders and say, "Well, it's an AD or a REVENUE SOURCE, after all. I have no control over that..." In the case of The NYT, the instant sidebar material could be seen as a reporting tool, no?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another Problem

To echo Ben's comments about seemingly being ignorant of events in the Pac-10, one of their college football writers, Mark Schlabach, wrote a story about Sam Keller a few days ago. Keller, who began the 2005 football season as ASU's starting QB before an injury ended his season, transferred to Nebraska at the beginning of last season after he was named the ASU starter for 2006 by then-coach Dirk Koetter and then replaced just two days later in favor of Rudy Carpenter. It was a major story here and, in some ways, haunted ASU throughout last season.

Keller is now going to be the starter at Nebraska this year, and Schlabach writes this story portraying Keller to be the wronged man in the ASU story. The problem is, he never attempts to get any ASU perspective in the story. He mentions off-hand how many ASU players went to Koetter after he named Keller the starter and said they felt that Carpenter was the better choice to lead the team, but it seems he made no attempt to talk to any of those players. Also, Keller's dad is quoted in the article saying that Carpenter didn't have what it took to be "the guy" on a football team, but again, there are no comments from Carpenter in the story. He does say in the story that Koetter could not be reached for comment, but even if had talked to Koetter, that does not get an ASU perspective in the story, as Koetter was fired by ASU and now works as an NFL assistant. Finally, he mentions the RUMORS (not substantiated facts by any means) that Carpenter threatened to transfer, which led to Koetter changing his mind. However, he does not at all address the many rumors that have circulated around ASU about Keller and his off-field behavior. Overall, I just found it to be a very irresponsible story that basically read like a press release for Keller, making him the fallen hero and everyone at ASU (Koetter and Carpenter in particular) the villains. Sorry to go on and on, but this story just frustrates me as an ASU football fan because many outside Tempe will read this and believe they are getting the whole story when they are not.

No firm definition for "quote"

Deborah Howell, ombudsman for the Washington Post, captured several lines of reasoning over how quotes should be treated: literal? Cleaned up? Should their highest purpose be to convey the essence of what was meant? See how your thoughts match up with some of your journalism colleagues.

Pac-10 Basketball Preview

I know that it is one of my major journalistic pet peeves, but I cannot stand when basic facts are wrong in articles. is running off-season previews of college basketball right now and the Pac-10 preview calls Arizona State guard Jerren Shipp a "frosh Pac-10 legacy." He is a sophomore. That is not something ESPN is unaware of; his name is hyperlinked to his college stats and it lists him as a sophomore. He played in 30 games last season and averaged 30 minutes per game. During the season, he played against his brother, Josh (a guard/forward for UCLA), and the television commentators (from Fox Sports Net, if memory serves) frequently mentioned that Jerren was the third Shipp brother to play in the Pac-10. The third brother, Joe, played at California.

It really hurts the credibility of the article when the basic facts are incorrect. The expert predictions and commentaries must be taken with a grain of salt because they clearly are not too familiar with the Pac-10.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

LL World Series

Well, my understanding of this blog is that we are supposed to post on any journalistic/editing concerns we encounter, so hopefully I am on the right track. Anyway, I was just reading AZ Central and I saw an article about the Chandler National baseball team that is playing in the Little League World Series. Now, this is certainly a great accomplishment for those children and their coaches, but should this really be covered in the news? I would say that putting these kids on national TV (the games are on ESPN and I think the final is on ABC) and making them front-page news in the papers only leads to the development of an arrogant attitude that many people criticize in today's pro athletes.

Of course, young athletes having a sense of entitlement is more than just a journalistic issue. Society often builds up these talented youngsters to the point where people like LeBron James or Michelle Wie become household names before they even reach adulthood. However, I do think the media plays a big role in that. If young kids didn't see their names in the paper or faces on TV for playing a sport, they may have an easier time staying humble. Don't misunderstand me, I love sports and I certainly think they are newsworthy, but I'm just not sure that Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, etc. with 10- or 11-year old kids should be in the newspapers or on television. That's just my opinion on the issue, but I'd be interested to hear if anyone agrees or disagrees.

Fun with geography

Can you pass third grade? This is the interactive quiz we played with in class today. Warning: Addictive. But effective. Great way to prep for the Dow Jones exam.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Really, jackhammers?

Hey guys! I wasn't really sure of the terms of posting on rimrats yet, but my dad sent me this image this morning, and I really wanted to share it with you all.

Beyond the fact that this photo (and particularly the caption) are initially pretty funny, I thought it kind of brings up some important questions.

Should The Roanoke Times, or any newspaper, publish a photo that makes a person look this bad? I know from the photo class that I took that asking her to put out her cigarette would have taken away from the reality of the photo, but it seems that this just makes her look bad, and maybe even makes the paper look bad for failing to acknowledge it.

Not sure... but I thought it was interesting.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Welcome to a new semester

Greetings! A new group of talented rimrats joins the blog this morning as the fall semester begins at the Cronkite School. This term's 413 class is the first in many years to have a 9:40-11:30 schedule on both Mondays and Wednesdays (in the past, it was an hour longer on Wednesdays). We'll also be doing far more multimedia editing than ever before, exploring SEO and the use of keywords, importing content into Dreamweaver templates, creating audio slideshows, writing narrative cutlines, venturing into the basics of audio editing. It's exciting times for copy editors and there's no reason we shouldn't be out in front having fun. Let it begin.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Redesigned Pilot

The Virginian-Pilot, famed for its design and presentation chutzpah, has launched an overhaul that deeply affects both content and look. The video at left is interactive. Denis Finley, editor, explains the thinking behind the work. Pop-up pages offer a closer look at the section fronts. There are links to a FAQ and an article by lead designer Deborah Withey. shows before and after fronts *and* inside pages and offers commentary. (One of the most interesting aspects of this redesign is that the inside pages were revamped to reflect newer technology.) If you're interested in seeing what the previous major redesign looked like when launched in 1993, check out Alan Jacobson's Brass Tacks explanation.

I posted one of the new fronts. Do you love that crab hed or what? (Click on the image to see it larger.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

AP Stylebook updates

New entries include: African Union; airstrike; BlackBerry; Boogie; carry-on; Chennai; farmers market; female; GPS; headlines; hip-hop; homebuyer, homeowner; intefadah; Islamic holy days; Katmandu; mentally retarded; merger (Business); Mumbai; Swift boat.

Changes and updates include: Baha’i; datelines (Baghdad); daylight saving time; editor-in-chief; European Union; Fatah; Mexico; planets; plurals (Broadcast); RSVP; telephone numbers; U.S. time zones map; track and field (Sports); volleyball (Sports); headlines (Filing the Wire); Hold for Release slugs (Filing the Wire).Deletions: husband, widower; Internet Search Tips; Laundromat; pupil, student; Serbia-Montenegro; U.S. Court of Military Appeals; Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ambiguity and an echo

I don't know what the new search-engine-optimization gurus have to say about echos ("search resumes" in the hed, "searchers resumed" in the lede), but there's no doubt that the main hed can be read as a command to look at resumes ("search" as verb, "resumes" as noun). It only takes a second or so to make the mental adjustment and get the correct meaning, but that second is precious time and the conflict has made the reader WRONG! Not anything you want to do. "Searches resume" would be better if you were correcting on the fly.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Circulation reverses in Philly

When the Inquirer's new owners -- private investors -- took over, it was said the circulation would improve when pigs flew. Circulation HAS improved and the paper celebrated with a four-page special section and even projected light images of flying pigs on the front of the Inky's building.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Must have been a slow news day...

Well my title to this entry says it all. If you look at today's front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, you obviously see and enormous centerpiece that spans the entire length of the page. The purpose behind the centerpiece? It's not a story. It's a giant and colorful quiz that asks the reader to match each presidential candidate with each of their alternate career choices. It's different and there is supposedly a story to go with the centerpiece on the inside pages, but did it really need that much space on the front page? The concept feels much more like something that would randomly appear on the inside pages of a magazine, but not on the front page of a newspaper. Just some quick thoughts.

Thought this was pretty funny

The Demographics of American Newspapers:

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country . . . or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.
11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.