Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Democratic adjectives
The Democrat/Democratic debate rolls on this week, thanks to President Bush's use of "Democrat" as an adjective during the State of the Union. "I congratulate the Democrat majority," he said, even though the prepared text said "Democratic" majority. In an interview with NPR this week, the president said the usage was an "oversight."

The Democrat(ic) leadership seems to accept that explanation, but some liberal blogs are not. One even faults The Washington Post for not digging deeper in its story on the issue.

So what's all the fuss about? An article in The New Yorker offers some background about it all and mentions a copy editor's efforts to put the "ic" back in.

UPDATE: Bush makes light of the situation as seen in this YouTube clip.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 12:56 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, January 28, 2007
D.C. legends
Beware of anyone or anything described as "legendary." It is not a synonym for "famous" or "well-known." You have to be special to be a legend.

The Associated Press breaks this rule in a story about the Scooter Libby trial:
Martin had succeeded legendary Republican operative Mary Matalin as Cheney's political and public affairs assistant.
Matalin is certainly one of the better-known political consultants, but is she a legend?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 12:27 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Saturday, January 27, 2007
An attractive headline

Here's one positive side to the rush toward online news at the expense of print: Copy editors won't have to write so many one-column headlines. Those narrow widths are hard to work with, and it always seems that complicated stories go in those spots on the page.

This headline hits the mark. It's clear, lively and active. It has a play on words, but that element is subtle enough to avoid the groans that puns can elicit. It breaks cleanly from line to line. The drophead widens the thought of the main headline.

Fine work!
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:04 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, January 26, 2007
Drone on
The San Francisco Chronicle is posting voicemails from readers in podcast form. Check out this example from a caller who is angry about the way the paper describes drone aircraft. He wants to know why the "sub-editors" aren't doing a better job.

I would get such calls in my days on the wire desk at The News & Observer. Story play was more often a topic than word choices, but some conversations included both. Some common subjects and themes:
  • the Mideast and how the N&O was favoring Israel or how it was favoring the Palestinians;
  • Iraq and how the N&O was cheerleading the war or how it was covering up the real progress there;
  • anything to do with John Kerry or Bill Clinton.
I was always happy to talk with a reader, but not be talked at. Some brought up legitimate issues; others didn't. I also got the idea that some of these callers weren't so much angry as lonely. And they knew someone would always pick up the phone in the newsroom.

UPDATE: Some wonder whether the Chronicle call was legitimate. Is there a "Simpsons" connection?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 11:06 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Editing 'Relentlessly Local' copy
This semester, students in my Advanced Editing class are the copy editors for writers in another course at UNC, Community Journalism. Together, these students are producing the Carrboro Commons, a "relentlessly local" online newspaper focusing on Carrboro, N.C.

The first results of this partnership went on the Web this week. The Commons is still a work in progress, and we have some technical issues to work on. (Going from Word to InCopy to WordPress isn't as simple as you would think.) For the next issue, we plan to add a companion "print" edition — InDesign layouts that can be downloaded in .pdf.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 3:35 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Swatch or swath?
The word "swatch" in this lead brings to my mind the image of a fabric sample, not a place. My dictionary seems to agree, but it does note this second definition: "A patch or area of a material or surface." Does this place fit that meaning?

I like "swath" here instead of "swatch." My dictionary defines that as "a broad strip or area of something."

Either way, "swatch" is one to watch.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 11:18 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Perils of the preprint
Parade magazine revealed its preprinted nature this week. In the Jan. 21 issue, an article on Drew Barrymore mentions "long-term boyfriend" Fabrizio Moretti, the drummer for the Strokes. Their relationship is cited as evidence of Barrymore's turn toward career stability and personal maturity.

Alas, Barrymore and Moretti have broken up, as reported Jan. 10 in Spin magazine, among other places. Such mistakes happen when real life overtakes deadlines of magazines that are printed far in advance. But why didn't Parade's editors ask Marilyn Vos Savant (the so-called smartest person in the world) whether this relationship would last?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 7:34 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, January 18, 2007
A copy editor's parting shot
A Philadelphia Inquirer copy editor says goodbye to the paper he loves — and has some harsh words for its publisher. Here's the gist:

It is my greatest hope that The Inquirer will continue to be a great
newspaper. But I fear that now the reporting staff will be too small. Who knows what stories we won't have the time, space or staff to uncover? I fear the copy desk, which lost more than one out of four editors, will be too harried to do its job. And I fear for an institution beaten down by misguided ownership.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 12:27 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Simply red
A student in my editing class asks a good question: Is this human blood in this front-page photo, or is it fuel or fluid from the car? The cutline is unclear.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:10 AM | Permalink | 2 comments
Monday, January 15, 2007
Far from left

This photo and cutline that you see here are just as they are at The Washington Post's site. They appeared with Howard Kurtz's column about the feud between Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC.

It's unclear why the cutline refers to four people when the photo clearly has only one person. It's amusing, however, how the directional clues in the cutline refer to O'Reilly as "far left" — is this part of the liberal conspiracy against the Fox News commentator or just a silly mistake? And why does Joe Scarborough, the one person in the photo, look so stylized here? This looks like a photo of the Madame Tussauds rendering of Scarborough.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:50 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
A few links and a dream deferred
This, that and the other thing:
  • The tentative schedule for the ACES conference is available. The deadline for early registration is Feb. 1. And don't forget the regional meeting at UNC-Chapel Hill on Jan. 28.
  • The editor of the paper in Stockton, Calif., tells readers about efforts to run more alternative story forms.
  • James Kilpatrick writes about the "only" thing that bothers him — at least for this week.
And from the Orlando Sentinel, a funny quote:
The parks are all in good shape, though some are in need of deferred maintenance.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:11 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, January 12, 2007
Kill this comma
A copy editor for the Washington City Paper makes a case against the serial comma.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 6:10 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, January 11, 2007
There will be a quiz
If you are in the mood to test your skills, here a couple of places to go:
  • EditTeach has posted the most recent Dow Jones editing test and its answer key. You can also take older Dow Jones tests there.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:32 AM | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Monet or not Monet?

Which one of these paintings is not a Monet? Answer here.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 5:56 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, January 08, 2007
Biden being Biden
Here's an interesting quote from Sen. Joe Biden, announcing his bid for the White House:
I’m going to be Joe Biden, and I’m going to try to be the best Biden I can be.
Still, he's no Flavor Flav when it comes to this sort of self-referential talk.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:59 AM | Permalink | 1 comments
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Still Biting the Wax Tadpole
Cox News Service has this amusing story about China's ongoing struggles with translating things into English. With the Olympics coming to Beijing, the Chinese government is working hard to get rid of "Racist Park" and "deformed man toilet." One reason given for the odd wording: "An over-reliance on the dictionary can lead to the incorrect synonyms."

By the way, the old story about Coca-Cola's name being translated as something to do with tadpoles isn't true. It's still fun to say, though.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 3:05 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Friday, January 05, 2007
Pancakes and promos
The News & Observer gives a significant chunk of page 2A to promote stories that will be published in the coming days. Most of the time, these promos run in the bottom right quarter of the page. In the Saturday paper, they rise to the top as "Coming Sunday" items. Either way, the space for the promos comes from news hole, and the newsroom is responsible for them — even though they look and read like advertising.

Like stories, these promos have to be carefully edited and designed, but that doesn't always happen. They're an afterthought in the newsroom. After all, real stories for tomorrow's paper need writing, editing and designing.

That's why the 2A promos are nothing but trouble. This one even required a correction. The promo in question is to a "resolutions" package set to run in the entertainment section later in the week. One of the subjects of the resolutions story is Jim Black, a Democratic lawmaker whose deal-making meeting with a GOP lawmaker at an IHOP restaurant has come under scrutiny. (Here is more on the Black scandal if you are curious.)

The image in the promo of Black in an IHOP smock prompted the correction you see here. No, he's not really wearing that. Yes, it's a manipulated image, and it should have been labeled as a photo illustration.

The correction, however, doesn't explain everything. Which promo text does the image go with? Do the "uncommon threads" of the Alexander Julian exhibit include an ironic IHOP look? If so, why is this guy the model for it? Mentioning Black in the "Showing some resolve" promo would have headed off this confusion, or perhaps adding a cutline would have helped.

Better yet, let the marketing department handle these "coming soon" promos, and let the journalists get the next day's paper out.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 1:10 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Whither ombudsmen?
The New York Times is considering eliminating or at least revising the job of public editor. Byron Calame's term in that role ends in May, and that may be the end. Here's what Managing Editor Bill Keller says:
Some of my colleagues believe the greater accessibility afforded by features like ‘Talk to the Newsroom’ has diminished the need for an autonomous ombudsman or at least has opened the way for a somewhat different definition of the job.
That idea doesn't sit well with the likes of Rachel Sklar at The Huffington Post. I agree with her that public editors are useful, and I would like to see more of them with specific experience in copy editing since many reader complaints are about headlines, cutlines and other content originated by the desk.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 2:28 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Sub-Editors on the sub-Continent
The Indian perspective on editing is similar to the American one, if this piece is a reliable indicator. An excerpt:
This is also the least glamorous part of the job, invisible to the public and therefore little appreciated, but most exposed to internal upbraiding.
Sound familiar?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:26 AM | Permalink | 0 comments