Friday, October 29, 2010

Diana Goof

Game Film Week 11

Game Film Week 11
NOTE:  I would like to hear status reports on your independent editing projects on Tuesday

NICE SOLUTION HERE: “employees hurriedly shut down the arcade games and began carrying large plastic bags out of the kitchen and throwing them in a large metal trash container[1] in the alley behind a self-service laundry.”

Words Imply, Readers Infer

Plane grounded after woman aboard strikes matches
once again  recall that words can imply and readers can infer. Here, it goes without saying the woman was aboard, so that word is hedline padding. It could be removed to make hed more DWI. 

The FBI, Transportation Safety Administration and Airport Authority responded to the emergency at the airport.
Here again is another example. We already know the plane made an emergency landing. Then when we say these agencies responded, we don’t really need to repeat that there was an emergency or where it was at.

The 99 passengers, five crew members and luggage were brought off the plane to undergo security checks again. Bomb-sniffing dogs found spent matches.
under the heading of Words Imply, Readers Infer – do you see how it sounds like the dogs found the matches during this security check – which was not the case? This is the challenge of cutting stories. Sometimes you end up slamming together different bits of info and the spark unintended meanings.
Pizza place has problem with poop, passing health inspection
under the heading of Words Imply, Readers Infer what would you as a reader infer from this head?

Bumping Proper Nouns
unscheduled visit to Nashville Monday around 6 a.m.
most editors will say that when you have a proper noun bumping into a time element like this it would be good to put an “on” between. = unscheduled visit to Nashville on Monday around 6 a.m.

Active or Passive?
A total of 685 alcohol ads were counted by researchers during 122 televised sporting events,
Recall we discussed this with earlier story. If you see a passive voice construction, stop and consider if it could be rewritten in active voice. For example: Researchers counted 685 alcohol ads during 122 televised sporting events,

2nd or 3rd degree arson charge
I would ask you if you are still confused about this to look in AP at ordinal numbers under the numeral section. And also look at suspensive hyphenation in AP and on the editing blog.

Cutting and Inconsistent Spellings
Pat Lowrance or Lawrence , a spokesperson for the Nashville Airport Authority
even if you end up cutting out the one different spelling of a name, the problem still exists. Here, I have the advantage of having seen the original text. In a news room that would not usually be the case. The result would be a fact error leading to a correction.

Woman strikes matches to hide body odor, plane grounded
Passengers smell burnt matches, plane grounded in Tenn.
Chuck E. Cheese to re-open after passing health inspection, poop no longer a problem
Mouse droppings found, health inspectors temporarily close Chuck E. Cheese

It’s easy to be fooled by the elliptical nature of headlines, but these consist  of two independent clauses, which means the punctuation is incorrect.
Woman strikes match
to hide body odor but  
grounds plane instead

I like this hed. Packed with info and right up to the line. This is the best hedline I have seen this semester. Do you see how it tells a story in three lines?
Woman banned from
flight after striking 
matches to hide odor

While this headline is good, think about your prioritized key words. Would “woman banned” come before “plane grounded” on your list?

Does the text support the Hed?
Research says alcohol ads influence children
Ads influence kids to drink later in life
Alcohol ads influence young to drink
Study shows kids affected by beer ads
WASHINGTON (AP) – Those fun-filled commercials at halftime may be influencing children to drink, according to research.

I continue to harp on this because it is a constant problem with professionals churning out copy ever day. For example, see this:
'The View': Joy Behar tells Sharron Angle to 'go to hell, bitch'
By Ken Tucker
Joy Behar condemned a political ad by Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle as fomenting racial divisiveness. The View aired Angle’s latest TV ad on the talk show on Tuesday morning. Looking at the camera, Behar addressed Angle, calling her a “bitch” and concluding that Angle is “going to hell, this bitch.”

[1] This is what AP says.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Does the Story Support the Headline?

So, does the story support this headline?
Joy Behar condemned a political ad by Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle as fomenting racial divisiveness. The View aired Angle’s latest TV ad on the talk show on Tuesday morning. Looking at the camera, Behar addressed Angle, calling her a “bitch” and concluding that Angle is “going to hell, this bitch.”

Death to the Generic News Story!

Ah yes, here is made manifest an old complaint of mine. I was just thinking about this in relation to the art of cutting often overwritten and redundant stories. I often argued at newspapers where I worked to little avail that we spent too much time writing the same story – 15 to 25 inches at least with 5 inches of new stuff atop 10 to 20 inches of B matter – on the same subjects over and over. It bored me and I am sure bored readers. If newspapers could spend less time on iterative info bits they would have more time to do minor or major investigations or even real narratives about people’s lives that readers would find of value.

Death to the Generic News Story!

If I've read that headline a hundred zillion times before, it can't possibly be news.

Generic Times photo illustration. 
According to the joke, the prisoners at the local penitentiary have become so familiar with the jokes they tell one another that they've enumerated them and can crack themselves up by merely shouting out favorites by number. A new prisoner tests this principle by hollering "37," but gets no response. "Why isn't anybody laughing?" he asks a fellow inmate. "It's all in the telling," comes the answer.

I thought of this joke this morning as I read the accounts in the Washington Post and the New York Times about an FBI computer system that is two years behind schedule and $100 million over budget ("Report criticizes FBI on computer project" and "FBI Computer System Is Late and Over Budget, Report Says," respectively).
Government computer systems that are woefully behind schedule and ruinously over budget have become such a news staple that it would be a wonder if editors haven't already numbered the stories, and others like it, for their newsroom convenience. The very least editors could do for readers is color-code generic stories to make it easier for us to skip them.
Although we hate the generic news story, it deserves our pity. It never asked to be born in its feeble, mundane state. It is usually the creation of an editorial system that attempts to do too much with too many stories when it should be giving three or four dozen pieces the time and space they deserve instead. Behind many generic stories stands a good story begging to be told. For instance, the botched government computer system story would be a great peg for a piece about a computer system that arrived ahead of schedule, under budget, and functions better than promised, and that explained how and why that happened.
One way to drive generic stories into extinction would be to compile an open-source list of generic headlines and feed them into a database. Any time a story headline in the publishing queue was a close match to one in the database, the software could alert editors that they're close to printing a piece that has all the news value of one titled "Sun To Rise in East Tomorrow." Alternatively, editors could simply spike the lame copy and demand a rewrite.
This morning, with the help of my Slate colleagues, I started building such an open-source list of headlines. Give it a gander:
Apple To Announce New, Secret Product
Social Media in [Country X] Faces Crackdown
Middle East Peace Process Restarted
Security Lapse Exposes Private Data of Millions
Market Falls on Fear of Inflation
Market Rises on Hope for Inflation
Long-Shot Candidate Challenges Status Quo
Inside the White House: Aides Disagree on Policy
Partisanship on Rise in Congress
Lobbyists Exert Influence Over Legislative Process
Congress Recesses With Unfinished Business
Leading Corporations Pay No Taxes
Standardized Test Scores Rise, Racial Gap Remains
Despite Gains, Women's Pay Lags
Day Care Found To Advance Children's Social Skills
Day Care Found To Delay Children's Social Skills
Americans Heavier Than Ever
Heart Drug Found To Cause Heart Attacks
Election Shatters Campaign-Spending Records
Additive Linked to Cancer
Broadcaster Fired Over Offensive Remarks
Interest Rate Jitters Drive Dow Down
Markets Rise on New Unemployment Numbers
Mixed Signals From Fed Send Stocks Lower
President Extends Olive Branch to Washington Insiders
Irregularities Found in Pension Fund
Civil Rights Leaders Embrace Personal-Responsibility Message
Lindsay Lohan Violates Parole
Brett Favre Mulls Retirement
CSI Launches Spinoff
New Job for Kinsley
As rebellions go, mine is miniature. But if you're equally sick of generic stories, help me eradicate them by building a headline database: Join the "comments" thread below and add a few generic headlines of your own.
And remember, it's all in the telling.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gotta Brain

Thursday, October 21, 2010

George Orwell's Five Rules for Writing

This is from his essay Politics and the English Language

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are
used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you

can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep

change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style
now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English,
but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in these five
specimens at the beginning of this article. 

Here is one of those examples from earlier in essay:

Here is a well-known verse from ECCLESIASTES:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor

the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches
to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and
chance happeneth

Here it is in modern English:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion

that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to
be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of
the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Peeping Headline

Write your headline as comment to this post:
  • Subject: A story about high school boys caught looking through a hole in a shower wall at girls in the locker room next door.
  • Boys get in trouble.
  • Story reports that the girls were very angry with their fellow students.
  • Warning: No Porky’s headlines

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Game Film Week 10

Game Film Week 10
From Twitter:
Confusing words sounding the same / makes your publication look lame:

Be selective / with your adjective
Hunter S. Thompson is purported to have once said: “If it’s weird, write it straight, and if it’s straight, write it weird.”
Examples w/heds:
Burmese python and alligator die after gruesome battle in Everglades
Python, alligator die after epic battle

Exact Numbers:
Unless the context demands exact numbers, round up or down:
An unusual clash between a 5.9 ft. alligator and a 12.8 ft. python has left
An unusual clash between a 6-foot alligator and a 13-foot python has left

Also, give ft. for foot the boot

was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency. ß avoid these kinds of awkward constructions. just say “told the Associated Press.”

Invoke the French Poodle Rule
The rangers said the find suggests that non-native Burmese Pythons might

Sequence of Tenses ßclick on this link
He said there had been four known encounters between the two species ß suggestion here was to use “have been.” As it relates to sequence of tenses, what do you think?

See this note form From After Deadline – an NYT Grammar Blog:

Sequence of Tenses
Several readers were puzzled last week by my criticism of the grammar in this sentence:
On Wednesday, the city of Copenhagen said that Mr. Eliasson will create a bridge there, called Cirkelbroen …

I said it should be “would create,” and indeed, that fix was made for print editions. But some commenters disagreed, thinking that “would” is only appropriate to convey a conditional sense or to indicate uncertainty.

The Times’s style, unlike that of some news organizations, is to adhere to the formal rules on tense sequences. So, for example, a verb that is present tense in a direct quotation shifts to past tense in an indirect quotation after a past-tense verb: I am going to the store becomes He said he was going to the store, not He said he is going to the store.

In such constructions, the future-tense “will” becomes “would” after a past-tense verb. In these cases, “would” is not acting as a conditional (He would go to the store if he needed something) but simply as the past-tense form of “will.”

Cutlines and awkward constructions
In cutlines – as much as possible avoid the such constructions as “is shown” or “is picture” or somesuch à
Former KYW-TV newscaster Alycia Lane is shown leaving the federal courthouse
Former KYW-TV newscaster Alycia Lane leaves the federal courthouse

AP’s got Religion: The stylebook is a cornucopia of info about religion and style. Check it out if you are not sure.  
A BLishop speaks on a cell phone before mLass

Civil vs. Criminal Court
KYW-TV newscaster Alycia Lane leaves the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.  She sued the station and former news anchor Larry Mendte after Mendte hacked Lane’s e-mail and leaked her personal information to gossip publications. He now faces house arrest and a $5,000 fine. ßcutline implies that she is leaving federal courthouse after suing – but this was a criminal trial brought but government. Her civil suit will come later in civil court.

Cliches and when they work and articles and conjunctions in headlines:
Python bites off more than it can chew
A Burmese python and an alligator fight to the death in the Florida Everglades
Maybe chew a wornout cliché, but maybe it works here – note the dek, however, and use of articles and conjunctions. I am attempting to teach you the conservative mode without such. Later you can break rules.

Echo, Echo, Heck No
First, you do not want to echo lead. Second, you do not want to steal your reporter’s words. à
Head: Burger King gets flak for ‘Whopper virgin’ campaign
Lede: Burger King is catching flak for taking the burger wars to places that don't even have a word for burger.
FYI: See Flak/Flack (this is also in your stylebook)

Web Heds 1
Python tries to make meal of alligator, both die
An SEO web hed might say “eat” rather than “make meal” – though as a writer of grabbie print headlines who likes to have fun with words I like the alliteration on “make meal.” Alas, that is problem with writing for Internet spiders.
News outlets take over college students’ computers ß fuzzy and obscure – it is really difficult to be cute and grabby in online hed given demands of seo

Web Heds 2
Two bombs found among luggage in train station diffused
Two bombs found in Mumbai train station defused ß this cuts luggage and adds Mumbai (which term do you think folks on Web would search for?
Ex-anchor under house arrest for hacking e-mail
Former anchor under house arrest for hacking e-mail ßex would not be a search term. Former might.
Police defuse bombs found at train station
Bombs found at Mumbai train depot defused ß this is why being DWI is important. Uses passive, yes, but gets relevant search terms into headline. Important, too, in print.

Old News vs. New News
Burger King launches ‘Whopper virgin’ campaign abroad, angers many
ß this is how keywords help you focus on the new news. Here, the launch is old news – the anger is new – and you need to be clear what you mean by anger. For example:  
Burger King’s ‘Whopper Virgin’ campaign called insensitive to hungry, poor
Burger King’s ‘virgin’ campaign targets hungry villagers
ßThis is old news, the new news is the campaign drawing fire
Bombs defused in train station, victims killed ßVictims killed is old news not new news
Bombs defused in Mumbai train station
Bombs found in Mumbai train station defused

Word Inference = Concision
Burger King’s ‘Whopper Virgin’ campaign called insensitive to hungry, poor
Here is what I mean. We all pretty much know what a Whopper is, so you could cut Burger King
Burger King ‘virgins’ campaign causes controversy, exploits villagers critics say
Burger King ‘virgins’ campaign exploits villagers, critics say ßCritics implies controversy
Former news anchor under
house arrest for hacking
Former anchor under house
arrest for hacking e-mail

There are No Synonyms (this is one of my mantras)
For example: Burger King criticized for asking foreigners to compare burgers
foreigners could include anyone outside U.S. That is not what we mean, right?

Heds as Editorial Opinion (lack of attribution)
Burger King insensitive to Whopper Virgins  
New Burger King Whopper campaign in poor taste  (though I like the taste pun)
Burger King exploits villagers in ‘Whopper Virgins’ ad campaign
Cell phones, Internet threat to soul

The Colon Hed (In a short count this may help. Just don’t overdue them.
Study: College students more focused on world issues
Vatican: cell phones hurt spiritual life

Quotation marks (single quotes in headlines)
Burger King accused of exploiting poor villagers in “Whopper Virgins” campaign
Cell phones and Internet “threaten the soul,” Vatican warns
Burger King’s virgin campaign branded insensitive (here, you need to put quotes around virgin and capitalize it.
Critics call Burger King’s “Whopper virgins” ad campaign “insensitive” à also, insensitive is not in quotes in story so you would not do so in hed

Padding and Bad Splits
Anchorman sentenced for
hacking co-worker’s e-mail
Former anchor who hacked
e-mail gets house arrest

Mendte on house arrest for
hacking Lane’s e-mail
Mendte under house arrest
for hacking Lane’s e-mail

News anchor sentenced to 6
months house arrest
Former anchor who hacked
e-mail gets house arrest

Here: Be more concrete, specific in your headlines – and hey – in all your writing: concreteness = the quality of being concrete (not abstract)

Pope believes
spiritual life
is threatened

Pope says cell
phone, Internet
threaten soul

Keywords Need a Verb
Keywords this is missing the verb sentenced / or / under house arrest or somesuch
1.     news anchor
2.     court
3.     hacking
4.     e-mail
5.     house arrest
6.     sue
7.     gossip publications
8.     personal information
9.     fired
10. job
11. network

Main hed: Former anchor under house arrest for hacking e-mail
Narrative hed: Former Philadelphia news anchor Larry Mendte
 was sentenced to house arrest for hacking into a
colleague’s e-mail and leaking information to gossip columns. ßso here, no need to repeat sentencing – you could make more DWI by adding colleague lost her job and/or that she has sued him  

Former KYW_TV newscaster Alycia Lane leaves the federal courthouse in Philadelphia yesterday. Lane took former colleague Larry Mendte to court after he repeatedly hacked into her e-mail and leaked  information to gossip publications, causing her to lose her job. ß in this case she did not take him to court. This was a criminal trial, which is brought by the government – she will sue in civil court

Social Media Sourcing


Mike Cronin WDUQ listeners: Was anyone listening when the station signal went down for 30 minutes this morning? Are you nervous about the pending sale of the station? Are you worried that your local NPR station might vanish? Call my desk at 412-320-7884. Thx!
Dave Decker I definitely am worried about it. We've been members for almost four years. We listen every day of the week and losing it would be a serious blow to the media landscape in Pittsburgh.
Richard Gartner Just the latest in a series of steps that makes Duquesne the most embarrassing college in Pittsburgh (they are also cutting most of their arts programs). I'm embarrassed to be a Duquesne grad.


UPI style book  1977
United Press International Stylebook (1977, p. 29):

burro, burrow.  A burro is an ass.  A burrow is a hole in the ground.  As a journalist, you are expected to know the difference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parallel Structures - NYT

October 19, 2010 

Parallel Problems

Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style. (Some frequently asked questions are here.)

Bryan A. Garner, in his Modern American Usage, describes parallelism as “the matching of sentence parts for logical balance,” and says it helps satisfy readers’ “innate craving for order and rhythm.”
Lack of parallelism, on the other hand, is like an uneven sidewalk that makes a hurrying reader stumble awkwardly and occasionally crash to the ground.
Several recent variations on the problem:
Dr. deGravelle’s clinic notes say Kyle was hyperactive, prone to tantrums, spoke only three words and “does not interact well with strangers.’’
This, as Garner notes, is one of the most common parallelism problems — “mixing phrases and clauses by introducing a verb late in the game.”
In this case, after the verb “was,” we started what appeared to be a list of parallel adjectives — “hyperactive, prone [to tantrums] …” But then we abruptly switched gears, introducing two new verbs. Perhaps the simplest fix is to use “and” instead of a comma after “hyperactive.” That would make “was hyperactive and prone to tantrums” the first of three parallel verb phrases.
The problem is compounded by the switch to a present-tense verb in the direct quote at the end. Better to paraphrase to avoid the shift in tenses.
According to the listing, the apartment has four bedrooms, 5,425 square feet of space, and is on the 88th floor.
A similar problem. We seem to start a series of noun phrases, all direct objects of “has” — four bedrooms, 5,425 square feet and … — but then abruptly introduce a new verb, breaking the parallel structure. One solution would be to put “and” instead of the comma after “bedrooms.”
“I really didn’t know what I was walking into,” Jim Millstein says about taking one of the biggest jobs of his life: unraveling the taxpayers’ bailout — er, investment — in the American International Group.
Another common problem. If a prepositional phrase modifies two different nouns, the preposition has to work with both, or we need to supply separate prepositions. Here, it’s right to say “investment in,” but not “bailout in.” We needed “bailout of,” or we needed to rephrase.
Add in the competitive political environment, with Republicans ascendant, the Obama administration struggling to break the perception that it is hostile to business, and the resulting stew is potent.
Here, it seems, we simply didn’t have a third element for the series. We needed “and” after “ascendant,” and perhaps dashes to set those two elements off.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wouldn’t have found it hard to understand why the beautiful and damned flocked to Bernard’s large estate, often eager to toil in the most menial tasks. Like Bikram of Beverly Hills, the owner of many Rolls-Royces and Rolexes, and whose client list includes Madonna and Britney Spears, Bernard was especially lucky with his patrons, keeping one of the more flush Vanderbilts on tap for decades.
A different problem here. The two elements describing Bikram are not grammatically parallel, so they should not be linked by the coordinating conjunction “and.” There’s an appositive (“the owner of many …”) and a relative clause (“whose client list includes …”); we can simply delete “and.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wire Budget


CURRENCY WARS — Fears of an emerging currency war flare as the euro hits $1.40 for the first time in eight months and the U.S. steps up pressure on China to let its currency rise.

KOLONTAR, Hungary — Red sludge flows into the mighty Danube, threatening a half-dozen nations along one of Europe’s key waterways. Monitors take samples every hour to measure damage from the toxic spill of industrial waste and emergency officials declare one Hungarian tributary dead. There’s also encouraging news: The Danube is apparently absorbing the slurry with no immediate harm. By George Jahn.
AP photos, video.

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Two suspected suicide bombers attacked the most beloved Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s largest city Thursday, killing at least 10 people, wounding 65 others, and sending a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants to this U.S.-allied nation.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Airstrikes and ground operations by NATO and Afghan troops killed dozens of insurgents, including a senior Taliban leader who spearheaded attacks against security forces, the alliance said Thursday as the war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year. Sixteen militants were killed in air raids and ground fighting overnight in the Darqad, Yangi Qala and Khwaja Bahawuddin districts of Takhar province, Gen. Shah Jahan Noori, provincial police chief, told The Associated Press. More than a dozen insurgents were wounded.

NEW YORK — The biggest surprise about Mario Vargas Llosa’s winning the Nobel prize is that it took so long. The 74-year-old author and political activist, a charter member of the Latin American “Boom” of the 1960s, has for decades been regarded as one of the world’s greatest writers, a masterful and provocative mixer of literature and social consciousness in his work and in his life.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo tops speculation for the Nobel Peace Prize — one betting site has already declared him the winner — though some experts expect a more low-key choice on Friday.
Two women are also hot candidates in this year’s Nobel buzz: Afghan women’s rights activist Sima Samar and Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina.
JERUSALEM — In the clearest sign that a deal may be emerging to keep the Mideast peace effort alive, a top Palestinian official says his side would accept a U.S. proposal for Israel to avoid new settlement construction for two months. The Israeli prime minister is placating hard-liners with a seemingly unrelated issue — a new loyalty oath to the Jewish state. By Josef Federman.

LOWELL, Ind. — Each case followed the same pattern: A disheveled man approached people in rural towns and asked nonsensical questions about honeybees — then he started shooting. One person has been killed and two wounded, and authorities have set off on a two-state manhunt to find a gunman some have dubbed “the Honeybee Shooter.” By Tom Coyne.

Transportation security officials removed passengers from a Bermuda-bound flight Thursday at Philadelphia International Airport after reports that someone was helping to load the plane without a security badge.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Back-to-back bombings at a vegetable market south of Baghdad on Thursday afternoon killed at least five people, including a policeman who was searching for explosives, Iraqi security and medical officials said.

MIAMI — More than 100 attorneys are scrapping for a chance to be the superstars representing Gulf of Mexico oil spill victims, seeking leadership roles and more of the money from what could be a multibillion-dollar gusher of litigation against BP and other companies. A judge in the next few days will pick the elite corps of about a dozen lawyers to represent thousands of fishermen, restaurateurs, hotel operators and property owners who say their lives were upended by the spill. By Curt Anderson.
AP photos.