Tuesday, April 28, 2009

M is for Making Mistakes

Isn’t that the essence of editing – to catch mistakes, to fix them and to prevent them? Yet that is just one part of editing, when I started this course I thought that that was pretty much an editors job. Though I have had several fabulous editors during my internships and jobs at several publications, I knew they had to make tough decisions, but I guess I never thought about all of the different aspects of this career pathway. I certainly have a newfound respect for editors and the amazing work they do. I don’t know if I am cut out for such a position, it takes a special kind of person, but I know that I will never take them for granted.

It’s so funny how I hear all of us in this class joke about how we are so much more attuned to catching grammar errors and such. It’s like we’ve been reprogrammed for accuracy – which is great! Though others can find this annoying, I hope that they secretly appreciate it.

There is such an emotional response to editing. When you catch an error it can feel like a small victory, and when you make a mistake it can tear at you all day. I know I made an error on my last assignment, and it still bothers me because I knew that was improper styling, but it just slipped past me. Good thing we have such a great editor and teacher to catch those things for us.

Thank you Prof. Follis and to all of my fellow classmates, we have become better journalists together. :o)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

L is for Languishing Languages

LOL! This poist is going 2 b gr8! B4 IMing, it would b hard 2 read this. This butchered lingo is standard issue 4 texting & is crossing age boundaries. I don't even have 2 use words, I can use emoticons to get my point across:

:o) = I'm happy
:o( = I'm sad
:oO = I'm shocked
:oD = I'm grinning like a hyena
:oP = I'm sticking my tongue out
>:oO = I'm angry
:o? = I'm confused
:o[ = I'm a vampire
Xo( = I'm knocked out

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (thank you Yul Brynner)

I know that grammarians are probably >:o/ over such replacements for language, but let's look at the postives. For journalists, texting can teach conciseness, because it can be difficult to punch out all those letters on such a small platform.

Here's Amanda's challenge for today: go to notepad and type out a paragraph about anything, then paste that puppy into Word and see how well you did. Alas spellcheck, you make us accurate and lazy at the same time :o{> (this one has a mustache and beard...just because).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

K is for Kamikaze Kankles

What on earth? Got your attention, right? Did you laugh? According to a study I found online, people think that words with a K sound in them are funnier than other words. So what does this have to do with anything? Well, in lab we have been practicing cutlines and we all need a clever edge to get Follis laughing and in turn get a good grade.

So a quick trip to the slang dictionary online produced my title this week. I know that the word “kankles” is technically not a proper word and would be unsuitable for use in a cutline or headline, unless it were set off by quotation marks. I love how as I am writing this, Microsoft Word is frightened by the word and has it underlined in red with spelling suggestions that include: ankles, rankles, and kindles. Apparently Word is rankled by the notion of kankles and that is funny.

In conclusion, I’ve kept this brief, because brief is not a funny word, but is a desirable trait in a funny joke. So next time you are at a loss for words or need to be clever throw in a “k” – it’s a quick way to get to a happy day!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

J is for Judging Journalism

In editing we have been discussing news packages. Sometimes I stop and think about the power of the press. We are charged with the decision to choose the news, how to present and what photos to run with it. That’s a lot of judgment calls, but judgment in journalism also comes from ethical decisions and legal battles as well.

News judgment is potentially the greatest job an editor has. Today in my Issues in Journalism class, we discussed news judgment as it pertains to the future of newspapers. This brief article on CJR really sums up what we discussed in class today.

As a grad student, I have been taught by “old school” journalists who have instilled the core values of journalism within me. So I can understand how hard it is to transition to the new way of journalism that seems to be spreading across the Internet. Still our guest speaker said something that was quite troubling in regards to this phenomenon. She said that older journalists, who choose not to embrace the Internet and learn how to use it, will lose their jobs.

As nice as technology is, I think it is very unfair to lose the reporters who have spent their lives dedicated to public service without the Internet. Judging their journalism should be of higher rank than judging how to get it out. This is where the business model becomes more important than serving the public and that is where journalism should be judged.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I is for Integer Inconsistencies

Inconsistency is one of the troubles when working with numbers. In both lab and lecture we have been learning about how easily stories are printed and they may contain a variable amount of discrepancies.

So what’s up with that? Various reasons could include: laziness, lack of understanding and/or even little time to check. Yet all of these reasons are not excuses for journalists and they need to be honest and accurate with all of their facts and figures. In lecture we discussed how one of the most often errors is a multiple of ten, where 10,000 becomes 100,000 and also when millions become billions and vice versa.

In lab we learned to ALWAYS check the numbers (sorry I am not a fan of all caps, but I needed to make an important point). Numbers can be misleading – as we also learned in lecture. The ketchup vs. salsa debate depended on how the public relations for each spun the data.

I know I used to be someone who saw a chunk of numbers and my eyes glazed over like a Krispy Kreme doughnut. This was also how I felt about all those crazy stock market numbers. It wasn’t until I took business journalism and started dating my fiancĂ© that the numbers all started to make sense.

The Readership Institute at Northwestern University has a delightful article online about the importance of numbers to journalism.

So I guess the old excuse of getting into journalism because one hates math…is no longer valid.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

H is for Humorous Headlines

The other day at the bookstore I purchased a quaint little book that had a menagerie of jokes, funny stories and…you guessed it…humorous headlines. I couldn’t help but muse about the strange images the headlines conjured up in my mind. Here’s an example: “British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands”.

I had to think about this one a moment and then break it down to get the true meaning. Okay – the British Left (liberals), Waffles (waver) on Falkland Islands. And I thought they hired Eggo to make a deposit. Alas no syrup is needed, but maybe some punctuation or a word change or two.

Here’s a few more:

“Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Axe”
“Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft”
“Lansing Residents Can Drop Off Trees”

And the list goes on…if you really want to read more, you can buy this charming little book here. Even more recently I looked at my local newspapers webpage for the ever so slight chance of breaking news. My curiosity was compounded when lo and behold there was breaking news and the headline read like this “Naked boy with giant poodle assaults Hart woman”. She’s okay I’d like to mention, but what a zinger of a headline. I see that once the story ran in the paper the headline was altered to match the most current state of these unusual events.

As for me, headline writing is not my forte, but I will do my best to avoid such blaring errors of comical proportions. And now for some parting advice from that little book: “Include your Children when Baking Cookies”. Yum…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

G is for Grammatical Goofs

I have really enjoyed writing my column over the past month or so. Yet I heard nary a word from my editor, leaving me to think that maybe they weren’t up to her standards. Well her standards or not, she sent me a rather humorous and informative one line e-mail last week. It seems that a reader informed her that the past tense of drag is dragged not drug.

Her “virtual” tone was rather jovial, but I began wracking my brain to remember using “drug” for dragged in one of my columns. After a quick scan through my word documents, I found it…thank goodness for the “find” command…or maybe not. I’m just glad they didn’t write a letter to the editor about it. Oh goodness, I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again. Here is the sentence from my third column about being a shopaholic:

“I drug my fiancĂ© David to this movie on Valentine’s Day, I assured him it would be a learning experience, mostly for me.”

Oops, after a quick check online it seems that I was in error. “Drug” is apparently only to be used when discussing medical substances. I don’t think I had to drug David to go to the movie…maybe that dinner I bought him…nah.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

F is for Flagrant Fouls

Yes I know that a flagrant foul is a sports term and lucky for me we discussed AP Style for sports in lab recently. But for this blog I wish to discuss it in terms of foul language.

A flagrant foul is defined as “unnecessary and excessive” contact with a player whether the ball is “dead or alive” according to nba.com

I think this applies rather fittingly to the use of foul language, which is at best unnecessary and excessive. We discussed profanity in Monday’s lecture and the class was split over decisions to use such words. I think the use of profanity and/or foul language should never be permitted. I think it does nothing to further a paper’s reputation and ultimately hurts it. I have never used such language in the stacks of articles I have written and I feel really good about that.

Newspapers aren’t rated like movies, which tell the viewer what they are getting into. There’s no warning on the top of the front page that says “Caution: Reader discretion is advised.” Personally I am offended by the use of foul language and I don’t make a practice of using it myself, which I have seen evoke change in the speech of those around me. If foul language were necessary there wouldn’t be a choice to use it and there is. I think newspapers should exercise the greatest respect to their readers by watching their p’s and q’s.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

E is for Ethical Editing

This week’s lecture was a continuation of our discussion about running the photos mentioned in my “D” post. I found it interesting that Jean McDonald said that it was ethical to run all of the photos, because they were legally obtained and did not invade anyone’s privacy, but it was more a matter of good taste versus bad taste.

I am not so sure. As journalists we are taught to have our own ethical standards with which we will use in the work place to make very tough decisions. I did like that she pointed out how these decisions are not made individually, but by many people that discuss and contemplate the issue at hand. She also noted that we needed to practice ethical editing by removing the link to the website she posted containing the pictures. That same day, Jennifer Follis noted that we needed to edit our editing decisions, because so many of us had said we would not run the pictures, but linked to them, which essentially was running/publishing them to the Internet. Yikes!

So to back the trolley up a bit, my ethics course at MSU taught me a lot about news judgment and gave me an interesting look at how so many try to twist the ethics of journalism for their own gain. Case in point, the class was assigned to pick topics concerning ethics and to make a final presentation to the class about our findings. I paired up with two other students and we discussed how advertising/advertisers affect the ethics of journalism. I discussed incentives, while the other two tackled product placement and revenue.

Well back to the letter “E”, this week it is also for editors. I found an interesting post on regrettheerror.com. Hurray, another delightful reminder that even those at the Washington Post are human as well as humble. An editor’s apology is a sign of care for readers and concern for the truth. Way to go WaPo, you get a big red pen smiley face from me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

D is for Deliberate Decisions

This week’s blog is parlay to an assignment concerning deliberate decision making. These decisions must be in the sentences I write and in a group of controversial photos I would choose to run if I were an editor.

Thank goodness I just had an ethics course last summer at MSU and I would consider myself to be an ethical person. And so on to the photos. The thing about controversial photos is that one must consider who will be at the “breakfast table” in the morning. It’s all about audience.

Photo series - The suicide of Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer: I would chose to run the first photo and potentially the second, but the third and fourth are far too graphic to run in the paper. The fourth photo is completely unacceptable to be printed. The copy cat phenomenon is very real and when photos/stories about suicide are published, the suicide rate goes up, which is so sad. I think, ultimately, I would not run any of the photos and just a mug of Dwyer because I think the story could be told just as well.

Below are the questions asked of us and my answers follow:

Which of these photos, if any, would you publish? Why or why not? The only photo I would publish would be the boy grieving over his dog. The photo is not gory and the dog’s face is not seen.

What criteria do you use to make a decision? The message conveyed is one to pet owners and drivers alike, to be more careful. Unlike the other photos this one does not convey graphic images and human death.

Under what circumstances would you run the photos? I would run the photo small on the page so that it would still send a message, but not use this horrible accident to sell newspapers.

Consider whether the event happened locally. Does where or how you play the photo have any
bearing on your decision? If this happened locally many readers would probably recognize the boy and his dog, which would help to make the story have more impact. On the other hand, they would probably know the person who killed the dog as well, which could cause undue hostility, if the event was an accident.

Specify one photo that made you wrestle with your decision the most and talk about the many issues you wrestled with the most on making that decision. I did have a hard time choosing to publish this photo, because I don’t think the boy’s grief should be publicized.

I had a difficult time deciding about the Mardi Gras photo as well. I was so disgusted by the event and though the women’s face was obscured seeing her almost naked body being groped by so many men was so demeaning. I don’t think she should face further harassment by having this photo of her published. However, the men should be brought to justice for this horrible act. This photo sickens me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

C is for Column Corrections

This entry has to do with editing of course and it is a little story about me as well. One of my new adventures has been into the world of writing columns. Though I only have a few to my credit, I was so excited to see the first one in print. I remember digitally leafing through the paper until I found my column and there were a couple of sentences after what I had written that told my job history at the paper, my current location and my hometown. Well, almost…

Interestingly enough, my column answered all of these questions, well at least the last two. I am not sure who wrote it, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the paper was nice enough to give me a shot at a column and I should not point out mistakes! Right? Wrong. Well, being from a small town helps, where everybody knows your name and subsequently where you’re from even if the paper says differently.

As for the mistakes, the first was my hometown, which was said to be New Era instead of Shelby. And though they are within four miles of each other, kind of like that pesky r and f key on the keyboard of America, it is still a mistake. The second said that “she is obtaining my degree”. I think that may have been a cut and paste from the piece, where the “I” was changed to “she” but not the “my” to “her.”

And just because the paper made a mistake, doesn’t mean I love it any less. Hey we’re all human here folks, and if you’re not, keep an eye out for the Enquirer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

B is for Believable Blunders

B is also for the Fresno Bee this week, which we discussed in our editing lecture. As human nature goes, except for in the world of editing and potentially politics and law, we generally like to trust our neighbor. We fill our phone conversations and e-mail inboxes with the little stories that make-up our lives. Yet, sometimes that trust is taken too far and we are hoodwinked, thrown into the crossfire of pranksters and shown to be gullible lambs. This is especially catastrophic, though sometimes quite humorous, in the world of journalism.

Case in point, the Fresno Bee, who had the wool, or should I say the gills, pulled over their eyes. A fish story they chose to run, a fish story two old ladies spun, and in the end the Bee’s attempt for truth was undone. Oh my puns have just begun. Okay I’ll stop, but wasn’t that fun?

Speaking of fun, the women told a Bee reporter that their story involved a goldfish named Charley, who was owned by one of the women and found by the other. The “finder” placed an ad in the Bee that can be read here on regrettheerror.com. The story seemed too good to be true, thinking about how fragile goldfish can be, but the Bee ran it. The next day they revealed it was a hoax; a joke planned by the women to have a bit of fun. Needless to say the Bee had one in its bonnet, but seemed to run the correction in the spirit of good fun.

Journalists have a reputation to uphold, and cannot sink down to the level of those pesky tabloid reporters who hang out with Batboy, a multitude of talking cats and the alien ambassador to Mars. Sadly all of this unbelief makes it difficult for readers and journalists to tell the strange but true in the face of so much of the strange and false.

Here is a site with some of the biggest journalism hoaxes of all time, it’s a bit lengthy, but entertaining…hmmm…what does that say about us?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A is for AP Accidents

Welcome to my first blog post. In this new adventure in editing, I will attempt to tie-in editing mistakes in the news with my new-found editing knowledge. And now after reading that last sentence, I will attempt to not use the word editing more than once in sentence.

Okay, so last week I was checking the Associated Press for news updates to see what was going on in the world. A story that caught my eye, sadly, detailed a man in Los Angeles who killed his entire family and then himself. The reporter stated that the man and his wife had just lost their jobs and did not want anyone to take care of their children. It is so heartbreaking to see those in desperation choose death instead of trying to face their problems. I am not being critical at all, because I have no idea what kind of pain that they must have been feeling. I just wish that things like this never happen.

As I was reading, the story went on to note other similar occurrences. My sadness continued as I read each case, until I came to the third paragraph from the end. Another murder, but in this case it was about a man's "ex-wire" and her eight relatives. Now I can't be 100 percent certain, but I believe the writer meant to say "ex-wife." Now the f and the r are very close to each other on the keyboard, and wire is a word and correctly spelled, but a quick re-read might have picked this up. I know our minds are wonderful things and they interpret many words even when misspelled, or spelled correctly, but last time I checked, marrying a wire was not legal in any state ... and I know California is pretty liberal. Please note that my cynicism is only for the editing error and not at all towards the horrific nature of the article. The article is still uncorrected as you can see by the link.

Regrettheerror.com also has a piece where the AP missed the mark on a story about a man who found out he had a brain tumor. The story first ran stating that he found out "he had a brain." Yes, the omission is an accident, but the sad nature of the story is lost.

Dear AP,

We look up to you. We buy your books and follow your style.

Thank you for letting us know you are human after all.


Meanwhile I'll leave you with a thought. Were you that kid in school who looked for copy errors in your textbooks for extra credit? If so, I think we'll have a fun trip from A to Z, if not, it's never too late to join the editing debate. :o)