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

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 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!