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... : (