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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What country are we in again?

Here's an interesting sentence from the O:

Lehan and Damon, both Democrats, benefited from labour groups.

Blimey, is that so?

The loss of all copy editing at the local rags is exposing quite clearly the youth and inexperience of the people doing the writing. Meeker had it right: We're in trouble, folks.

Comments (18)

Shoulda used spell cheque.

I was a cub reporter for three years when I was in college, 40 years ago. I worked all day and finished college part-time at night. As a reporter, I was young and green, and I made a lot of mistakes. But there were numerous editors who watched over every word I wrote. They saved me from embarrassing myself, and them. (One of them is a frequent commenter on this blog! I love that guy.)

Anyway, nowadays there are few if any editors between the reporter and the reader. As a consequence, a lot of what gets posted has no air of authority behind it. And so people care less about what the media says. Which cuts back on revenue. Which cuts back on supervisory staffing. Can you say "death spiral"?

A few years back, it was part of my job to search the world for wacky news. This meant occasionally changing the British spelling - the dumbest one for me was "aeroplane."

Of course, the British tabloids would often just make up stories, and the quotes would sound a little off: "Britney Spears then yelled to her mother, 'I've got to go hospital, Mum.'"

I think we're assuming that was unintentional. What if it wasn't?

The collapse of copy editing as a vocation began in the early/mid '90s when the big papers went to electronic layout and decided that their copy editors should do double-duty as page designers. I've never discerned any logic behind that thinking other than sheer cost-cutting, but guess which one of those two tasks got prioritized and incentivized? It's been downhill ever since.

Katie, Margaret, and John? If you're out there, thanks for saving me from huge mistakes as a columnist at the Portland Tribune. One time I hung out with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead during an autograph session at Music Millennium. Unfortunately, my column had his new band performing at the wrong venue, and the copywriters caught it.
What a relief.

I did one good thing for Margaret. Incidentally, she had previously worked on a newspaper in China and had to be unimpressed with my journalistic background (none).

Anyway, I wrote this column about Bill Clinton and what a naughty boy he had been with the sex stuff. Margaret worked on it, and when it was printed, I used my old banquet gig to hand it directly to the former President. He looked at it, and someone took a picture. I had a copy of the picture framed and gave it to Margaret and said, "There's a President of the United States looking at your work."

Sadly, I would complain sometimes when the copyeditors would change or alter the jokes in a column. This was my area and I felt I knew more about it then they did. After one dustup, I was ordered never to speak to the copyeditors again.

I'm still grateful to them though.

Copyeditors - not copywriters. See, that's just what I'm talking about...

Using the British spelling makes it look more euro.

It's like when every other commenter at BlueOregon was chiming in with a "spot on" a few years back.

I am surprised to learn that "benefited" can be spelled with either one or two letter "t". They spelled it with one. It looks wrong, doesn't it?

"Cancelled" -- one "l" or two? We like two, but some spell-checkers want one.

Andrew Jackson: "It's a poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word."

As the sports editor for my high school newspaper, I'm constantly amazed at the growing number of so-called "news stories" that fail to cover the 5 W's - who, what, where, why and when.

As noted above, it does give a more Euro flavor that fits in nicely with our 18th century, primary transportation system being pushed on the normal folks.

If i cuda speled properly, Ida gon to collage and made sumthen of meself.

As a former sports writer at a daily newspaper (not the O) I couldn't agree more with semi-cynic's comment.
I think the trend actually started earlier, when newspapers began to worry about losing readers to TV with the onset of 24-hour news (and sports). The bright idea, instead of providing depth that TV couldn't (or more accurately, wouldn't) do, was to present a "more appealing package." There was more concern with look and style and keeping up with trends. It's gone hand-in-hand with the explosion of "infotainment."
I'm not saying that newspapers haven't always had problems presenting enough important information to keep people informed, but now, too many of them are practically worthless.

Perhaps the burden is on bloggers to shoulder some of the load. Most of us aren't paid, but even low-traffic blogs can point out malfeasance, highlight wrongdoings, etc and, to frame it in total cheese, "make a difference."

Although I sometimes wonder if it's worth the effort.

I hope your blog is able to generate some modicum of ad revenue, Jack, because I read it in lieu of local media outlets. It's a valuable resource, even if the kids running the city think you "complain too much about taxes." (That's what some whippersnapper wrote on a blog a while back, somewhere.)

I wrote for The Oklahoman when I finished college and the copy editors were old classmates of mine. They did a fine job making sure I didn't look like an idiot.

Except for this one time... I interviewed a fascinating WWII vet (who went to war at age 14 after lying about his age to enlist) and misquoted the number of casualties suffered by U.S. troops on Tarawa island in Japan. I learned my lesson when a large number of veterans wrote letters to the editor to scold me. I never misquoted anyone again. :-)

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