Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A quick hit

From my local business paper:

Radio 94.1's core artists will include: Dave Matthews Band, Nora Jones, Jack Johnson, Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Tori Amos, Matchbox Twenty, Coldplay, Sarah McLaughlin, Goo Goo Dolls, Bare Naked Ladies, and Sheryl Crow.

I know working on a deadline is tough. You know what's not tough? Googling the artists' names so that you don't misspell Norah Jones AND Sarah McLachlan in the same sentence. Going against style on Barenaked Ladies is just icing on the losing-all-credibility cake.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Comfort for newspaperwomen (and men) everywhere

I do so love the New York Times' Talk to the Newsroom feature.

I was reading old installments when I stumbled across this lovely answer from executive editor Bill Keller. He's trying a little too hard to be funny, but in an industry that is widely expected to die within 50 years, Keller's conviction that we'll all have jobs in the future is comforting:

The Future of Newsprint

Q. Will the New York Times have a paper edition in fifty years, or will it likely be entirely Web-based and digital by that time?

-- David Myers, San Jose, Calif.

A. Fifty years into the future? That's the province of novelists, not editors. (Neal Stephenson! William Gibson! White courtesy teleport, please!) Will readers carry portable electronic tablets containing the Sunday NYT? Will we have foldable sheets of composite material that broadcast the news in electronic ink? Will we get our news beamed to us through cerebral implants? And will there be cults of newsprint enthusiasts who pay a premium for the retro pleasure of ink on paper, the way some audiophiles today insist on vinyl records? Heck, I don't know.

Will there be a New York Times, a Wall Street Journal, a Washington Post? Yes, I'm pretty sure there will be, or something very much like them, regardless of the medium in which they are distributed. What makes a newspaper is not the paper. It's resources and values. It's reporters and editors. It's the difficult and expensive and sometimes dangerous business of deploying talented people to witness events, ferret out information wherever it is buried, and try to make sense of it. It's a rigorous set of standards, enforced by experienced editors.

There is a hunger -- a market -- for trustworthy information about the world we live in, information that is tested, investigated, sorted, organized, analyzed and presented in a digestible form. Some people want it because it is essential to the way they make a living. (Out of touch means out of business.) Some want it because they regard being well-informed as a condition of good citizenship. Some want it so they can get the jokes on the Daily Show. I can't foresee such a drastic dumbing-down of civilization that the demand for good journalism goes away. And I don't know who else will provide it. Blogs? I love 'em, the best of them help keep us honest, but most of them don't do actual reporting. They riff on the news. Big Internet companies? Their business model is scale, awesome scale, not the kind of craftsmanship that goes into the best newspapers.

Barring new developments in organ regeneration (see today's Science Times), I don't expect to be around in 50 years. But we will be.

Of course, he does work for the effing Newspaper of Record. The rest of us might have more to worry about.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ask the copy grrl

Found this in comments:

Dear Copy Grrl,

I thought of you today when stuck in traffic next to a bus stop with an ad for the film "Gridiron Gang." The movie's tagline is "One Goal. A Second Chance." Do you think the first period should be a colon? I do.


Dearest Gridlocked,

I agree! I suppose it's possible that the film's marketers are trying to use punctuation in a clever multiple-meaning-type way, (i.e. the team has one goal: a second chance; but also they have one goal and are being given a second chance).

This sort of tomfoolery reminds me of that billboard near my house that reads Urban. Life. Style. Eric at Subjunctivitis has more on this, and the conclusion we both come to is that such shenanigans are very silly.

However, I would remind you that a poorly punctuated film tagline or title is no indication of its quality.

Since this film stars The Rock, its criteria for being a "good movie" are as follows: Does The Rock make a wry comment? Does The Rock cock his eyebrow? Does The Rock kick some ass?

Judging from the trailer, wryness might be hard to come by in this movie. But you never know - when scrappy young toughs are about, anything is possible!

Enjoy your traffic!
copy grrl

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Intro to News Analysis

Imagine that you open your local paper to find a front-page package headlined, "Census: Cincinnati losing at fastest rate."

The lede is, "No big city in America lost a greater percentage of its people during the past five years than Cincinnati, new U.S. Census figures show."

Also, every story in this package is labeled with a logo reading "Census Report."

There are two ways to interpret the thought process that went into this story.

One is to picture reporters and editors sitting around saying, "OK, we've gotta write a story on this new census stuff. What's the most interesting, newsworthy fact to come out of this report?" And then they decide that the city shrinking is more important than the growth in suburban Newtown, and they lead with that.

We'll call this Option A.

The other, apparently, is to picture reporters and editors sitting around saying, "OK, we want to write something really negative about Cincinnati. What can we find that's really bad about the city, so we can totally slam it and make it look like news?" And then they Google "Cincinnati" and "bad" and "yucky" and "we hate this place where we live" until they find - yes! - there's a census report that just happens to be coming out this week, and it has facts that could be interpreted in a totally factual - yet somehow incredibly biased - manner to make Cincinnati look bad!

We'll call this Option Jackass.

Look, when new census figures come out, the things they show are news. As such, the paper reports on them. You wouldn't ever decry the press for reporting on, say, a murder, because it made the city look bad - would you?

Or say there was some sort of war going on, and the paper ran a story about bad things happening in that war - you certainly wouldn't ever say that the fault was with the paper for reporting true things, would you?

Of course not.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

(not so) Liveblogging ACES 2006

Goodness, it's been a while! And I'm afraid this post will be short, as my cat is devouring me from the toes up. Assuming I can free myself from her fuzzy clutches, the next few days will be a veritable flurry of activity at Copy Grrl Central. A flurry, you hear me? FLURRY!

Anyway, I'm fresh from the American Copy Editors Society's national conference in lovely(-ish) Cleveland, Ohio. I'll try to post something about every session I attended, but for now, you'll have to content yourself with the conference blog.

Oh, gee, she's up to my knee ...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oh, dear.

My intrepid editor (whom I once described as "erstwhile," thinking it meant about the same thing as "intrepid" - one more reason you should never assume, chickadees!) has begun posting his weekly columns in blog format. Since I planted the idea in his mind, he identifies me (and links to this little project) in his first post.

I had rather liked the idea that I was laboring in obscurity, with my infrequent posts read even less frequently by a handful of uninterested but friendly pals. Now I suppose I'll have to brace myself for the influx of ones, nay, fives of new readers.

For the next few weeks, it's P's and Q's all the way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Split this! (or, Correcting grammar on the Internet is the last refuge of a scoundrel)

To the CiN Weekly staff blog commenter who includes a split infinitive in his reasons for never reading the publication again:

You might want to read this.

This is probably as good a time as any to talk about another grammar-related pet peeve: the habit some Internet scrappers have of using their opponents' poor grammar to rebut their argument. Yes, of course, a perfectly turned (and spelled, and punctuated) phrase lends strength to an argument. But a misplaced comma in your opponent's thesis does not invalidate it. Besides, criticizing others' grammar opens one up to all sorts of attacks on one's own use of the English language (as I have found out myself).

The example of the blog comment isn't the best, since it's referring to something that appeared in print and is therefore held to a higher standard than your average flame war - but we'll use it anyway, since the dynamics at work here are interesting.

Here, commenter "bw" seems to have us on the ropes with a barrage of intellectual superiority: factual error! another factual error! obviously you don't know your facts! aargh! Then he pauses ... and: "Split infinitive," he tosses off nonchalantly, intending it as a rhetorical gob of spit on our bruised and bleeding credibility.

But the effect is quite different. By using a grammatical error as an argument (and a false grammatical error at that!), the entire argument is cheapened. Suddenly, "bw" is transformed from a stalwart warrior for truth to a bitter troll who has to dig and scrabble for fodder for his nitpicking complaints. Suddenly, the rest of his points seem somehow less valid. (An example: How dare we say the PSP and DS were released in late 2004 without informing readers that this was the original Japanese release, not the American one? Well, um, we dare.)

Remember, dear readers: Grammar is a powerful thing. Do not use it as a weapon unless it truly is called for.