Friday, April 27, 2007
Comical effect
A metaphor or simile has to walk a fine line. One false step, and it can fall over the edge. This line from a restaurant critic was on the right track until it confused the comic strip "Family Circus" with the magazine Family Circle.

"Circle" and "circus" do sound similar and have common origins. Plus, "Family Circus" is typically told in a circular format. It's an easy mistake to make. But once in print, the error stands out.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 11:04 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
  • The liberal blog Talking Points Memo shows how The New York Post edits Associated Press copy.
  • CNN commentator Lou Dobbs doesn't like how newspapers use the term "undocumented immigrants" rather than "illegal aliens."
  • Chip Scanlan of the Poynter Institute has merged his blog and columns about writing — with a vow to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 5:08 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The 40-Year-Old Intern
The move to online media was the big issue at the recent conference of the American Copy Editors Society, with an entire track of workshops dedicated to the topic. (Read all about it here.) As ACES leader Chris Wienandt pointed out in the conference's program, the major concern 10 years ago was the switch to pagination — if only that could be our big problem now.

One of the ACES sessions brought editing professors into the same room with editors at news Web sites. Some of these Web editors were former newspaper copy editors; one was a former TV reporter. At least one was Web-only his entire career.

The lively discussion, moderated by Deborah Gump of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, touched on issues such as editing of wire copy (it's not done much for the Web) and teaching software (it's not all about Dreamweaver). Listening to this give and take, which at times was contentious but always courteous, I was struck that what we professors needed was some old-fashioned newsroom training. I've been out of newspapers for only two years, but I feel the need to return and learn more.

For 12 years, the American Society of Newspaper Editors ran a program that sent educators for a summer in the newsroom (usually print, but some online). There, they could brush up on their skills and learn some new ones to take back to the classroom. Unfortunately, the program ended in 2006, just when it seemed that we needed it the most.

Without ASNE to turn to, I am going to be my own agent. I want to work as a copy editor at a news Web site, continuous news desk or similar operation in the summer of 2008. (I've already got several projects lined up for this summer.) Like any intern, I will work late and work cheap. Just let me learn so I can better teach my students how to prepare for the changes ahead.

You can find my contact information here. References available upon request.

UPDATE: Poynter offers a good recap of the ACES conference.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 12:32 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, April 23, 2007
Wiki kudos
As mentioned here, many of us on the editing side are wary of Wikipedia. Those concerns about accuracy stand.

It wouldn't be fair of us, however, to ignore this article in The New York Times that discusses how Wikipedia is getting credit for the way its contributors have reported on the Virginia Tech shootings.

One of those contributors describes herself as “an obsessive copy editor and spellchecker.” Wikipedia could use more like her.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:28 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I am sad to report that Atlanta Journal-Constitution books editor Teresa Weaver is no longer in that role because of a newsroom restructing. (Read the reaction to the news here.) She's a good editor who deserves better.

Many years ago, Teresa and I were on the copy desk together at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. Last year, I wrote a review of a Hal Crowther anthology for the AJC that Teresa edited.

Other news from the AJC here.

UPDATE: University presses and librarians are urged to act to save book reviews in newspapers.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:47 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Google dummy
It appears that Google News isn't immune to the dreaded "dummy" headline. At least this one just names a font and doesn't offend anyone. Here's another harmless example from the Web. And here's some discussion of ones that did offend.

More on how dumb things happen here.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:22 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Wish you were here
This blog will likely be quiet for the next several days as I head to Miami for the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society. If you can't make it to the meeting this year, you can follow it at the conference blog.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:08 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, April 16, 2007
Where the news is
Here's an interesting paragraph from the story on the frightening news from Virginia Tech:
Madison Van Duyne said she and her classmates in a media writing class were on "lockdown" in their classrooms. They were huddled in the middle of the classroom, writing stories about the shootings and posting them online.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post recaps some of the new ways this story is being reported as it unfolds.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 1:51 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Good sports
Having worked on the sports copy desk now and then, I know and respect the effort that goes into putting together a solid sports section. As copy editors in sports are quick to point out to their colleagues on the news side, they are putting out "election night" sections every day. Increased deadline pressure and significant page remakes between editions are routine.

On Sports is a blog that I've just recently discovered (thanks to the NewsU blog), and it's reminding me of the hard work of the sports copy desk. The blogger is Joe Gisondi, who teaches at Eastern Illinois University. A former copy editor for numerous newspapers in Florida, Gisondi has some great tips for those interested in writing, reporting and editing about sports. In this recent post, he asks whether it is accurate to say that a women's basketball team played man-t0-man defense.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:01 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Duke case here and there
Different places have different stakes in news stories. The Duke lacrosse case is one of those — a university in North Carolina, accused players from elsewhere. Print and online media in those places try to gauge their coverage accordingly.

Here's how two North Carolina papers presented the collapse of the case:

And here's how two papers in the New York area presented it:

UPDATE: The News & Observer's site offers a slide show of selected front pages on the case. The Philadelphia Daily News is especially interesting in the way it links Duke and Don Imus.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:27 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Farewells in Atlanta
The "voluntary separation program" is done at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. An AJC memo posted at Romenesko reports that about a dozen copy editors are leaving, as is movie critic Eleanor Ringel.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 5:22 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
A style point for the ages
"The boys are back in town!" proclaimed the announcer on a Raleigh radio station. He was reporting this morning on the return of three Duke University lacrosse players to the Triangle. They're back for an announcement on the sex-assault case.

Radio and cable TV will undoubtedly be talking about "the boys" a lot today because all charges have been dropped. It's important to keep in mind, however, that the accused players are adults. They are men, not boys.

UPDATES: This post has also been edited to reflect that the case is over. And with all charges dropped, The News & Observer decides to identify the accuser and publish her picture.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:49 AM | Permalink | 2 comments
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Sometimes, just crop
You may have already read about yet another ethics blowup regarding news photographs. The Toledo paper ran this correction on this photo of a baseball team because the photographer altered the image. A person's legs under the "19" banner were wiped away. The photographer says the altered version was for his own use, but it got into print anyway. He has resigned.

One way to use the photo and eliminate the distracting legs is to crop it from the right side. Yes, you do lose some the banners honoring the fallen players. A careful crop, however, keeps the storytelling value of the photo intact and maintains the dramatic horizontal orientation. And it's ethical.

I've worked in newsrooms where copy editors designed pages and cropped photos. I've also worked in newsrooms where the photo desk did the cropping, copy editors edited and wrote headlines, and designers laid out pages. Both systems can work, provided that collaboration is encouraged. Once in a while, the word people can think visually. Maybe they could have done so here.

UPDATE: The Blade's executive editor explains and apologizes. His column includes examples of more altered photos from the photographer.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 3:11 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, April 09, 2007
Ho hoe ho's
A faithful reader of this blog, a thoughtful copy editor at a large metropolitan daily, asks a timely question: What is the plural of "ho"?

Radio host Don Imus said that word — and some others — in describing the Rutgers University women's basketball team. He's still dealing with the fallout of yet another botched joke uttered into a microphone. Imus, a broadcaster, didn't have to spell the word; that's left to us in print and online media.

"Ho" has many meanings and uses. ("Land ho!" is an example.) The word Imus used is a derivative of "whore," but it doesn't appear in print often, at least not in the pages of America's newspapers and news Web sites. That's why we are fumbling now. Here are the options:
  • hos
  • hoes
  • ho's
Seeking precedent, we turn to Google News in search of Imus stories. Consensus is hard to find, however. An AP story on the San Francisco Chronicle site uses "hos," as does Media Matters, a watchdog group, favors that spelling, as does its rival, NewsBusters. The New York Times story, on the other hand, says "ho's." The New York Post and Chicago Tribune go with "hoes."

Several dictionaries list "hos" and "hoes" as acceptable plurals. The apostrophe seems unnecessary, and even The New York Times is steering away from using them in similar situations.

I like "hoes" because it reads like it sounds. "Hos" could be read by the unwitting as a word that rhymes with "gloss" or "floss." The "e" in there reduces that potential for confusion. Still, I'm open to persuasion. Anyone want to push for "ho's" or "hos"?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 7:08 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Friendly confusion
It's easy to confuse words that sound similar. Most editing textbooks have lists of these mixups, and those lists include items such as:
  • whose and who's
  • presents and presence
  • right, rite and write
  • there, they're and their
  • pore, poor and pour
The example above (from a story on the sinking of a cruise ship) is one I haven't seen before. "Pal" should be "pall." "Pal" is a friend; "pall" is a sense of gloom. It seems like an odd error to make, especially since the words are not pronounced the same way.

Quiz yourself on these word choices at Triangle Grammar Guide and at Skillwise from the BBC.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 2:37 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Needed: blog editors
If newspapers are going to ask reporters to add blogging to their duties, why are they not backing them up with a copy editor to oversee their posts? This misspelled headline is an example of the type of careless error that appears regularly on newspaper blogs.

UPDATE: The error was still there — both on the home page and the post — more than 15 hours after it was posted. In print, we would sometimes catch such a "head bust" and correct it between editions.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:28 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Be concerned
Deborah Gump, who taught editing at Ohio University for several years, has taken a new job at the Committee of Concerned Journalists. She is the director of print/online. Gump's superb EditTeach site will live on, and she plans to keep her connections to academia.

Gump's move to CCJ reminds me what an important organization this is. In late 2001, I attended one of its Traveling Curriculum workshops, representing the wire desk at The News & Observer. The workshop gave us a chance to get out of the newsroom for a couple of days and talk about the issues we faced in our jobs and what our profession faced as a whole.

CCJ membership is free, and I encourage my colleagues in the newsroom and the classroom to consider joining.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:21 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Getting their billy goat
The Tribune sale made for some amusingly different headlines in the rival Chicago papers. The Chicago Tribune takes the "yes, we are writing about ourselves" approach. The Sun-Times, on the other hand, looks for the angle that readers care about — and gets in a jab at its competitor. SND has collected more relevant pages here.

TV, meanwhile, yawned at the news.

UPDATE: A copy editor's look at the sale from the inside.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 4:24 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wire tangled up in hoops
The story budget at McClatchy-Tribune includes this malfunction. LSU and UNC both lost Sunday.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 2:16 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Show of strength
This recent headline brought back memories of my early days on the desk, working as a copy editor and assistant wire editor at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. This was the heyday of Manuel Noriega, de facto leader of Panama and thorn in the side of the first Bush administration.

Just about every wire story on Noriega called him a "strongman" — one of those words common in wire copy and headlines but seemingly never used in everyday conversation. It was a useful label for an autocratic leader who was not the formal head of state, but it became a cliche. The United States, of course, ousted the Panamanian strongman in a 1989 invasion, and he was captured and tried on drug charges. The word seemed to fall out of favor as Noriega faded from the headlines.

But "strongman" lives on. Chechnya is unfortunate enough to have a strongman in charge. Here are some other strongmen in the news now and in the past:
posted by Andy Bechtel at 8:04 PM | Permalink | 1 comments