Sunday, April 11, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #19
Don’t blame the writer.

Headlines are seldom dreamed up by the reporter, so I won’t even mention the writer’s name on this piece from the Associated Press that was featured on Yahoo! tonight. For an explanation of the egregious mistake (because it’s in a headline and may be the only part of the story millions of people see), see Everyday I Have the Blues #17.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #18

We have another copy editor free zone: AOL’s DailyFinance. In evidence, I submit the lede paragraph from Willow Duttge’s story today about the Kia:
Hamsters That Sell: Kia’s Soul Commercial Wins Auto Ad of the Year
Posted 3:00 PM 04/01/10
Evidently, hamsters are good for sales, or at least for getting viewers to remember your product. The Kia Motors (KIMTF) ad for it's Soul wagon created by ad agency David&Goliath, features dozens of them. The streets of a generic city are littered with hamsters that are stuck spinning on their creaky hamster wheels while hip hamsters zoom past in their bright red Soul. The ad was so effective in grabbing viewer's attentions that it was awarded Automotive Ad of the Year from the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards on Wednesday.
See full article from DailyFinance:
Willow is a seasoned journalist and a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism (you can find out all about her here), but since she can’t rely on copy editor Matthew Schwartz or any of the other veterans listed with him on the DailyFinance site to correct her writing, she needs to learn the difference between “its” and “it’s” (one is a possessive—do you know which one it is?). She also should spend some time studying the concept of agreement: hip hamsters zoom past in their bright red Soul. Just the one? Without seeing the ad, I would guess that we see more than one Soul, no matter how many hamsters are in it. [NOTE: Skip the study. My assumption was wrong. There is only one hip hamster group (a family?) in one car in the ad. Still, it would have been clearer to say “while three hip hamsters zoom past in a bright red Soul.”]

Also, “grabbing viewer’s attentions” is completely confused. If there is more than one viewer, it’s “viewers’ ” but the convention is to refer to the viewer, which may be what she was thinking of at first but when she tried to bring in multiple viewers she couldn’t figure out how to construct the possessive, and then the whole thing just broke down.

And one last thing in this paragraph. The ad was awarded Automotive Ad of the Year at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards, not from. Never from. Possibly by, but not from.

In the next paragraph we find “startting” for “starring.” It’s hard to understand how such a glaring mistake could have gotten past even a quick read through, but that’s a simple spelling goof. As I’ve said before, Spellcheck is your friend. There’s more, but I’ve had enough.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I applied for a job with AOL last year but was not hired. They thought they could get along without me and they may be right, though this story certainly indicates otherwise. I am not bitter. I am simply a disinterested copy editor, offering guidance to the many writers who struggle to write coherently, out there in the vast reaches of the Internet.

UPDATE: As of May 17th, all of the egregious errors cited above have been corrected, which proves that someone is reading this blog. No need to thank me, guys, it’s all in a day’s work. But DailyFinance could still use a copy editor. Reading the rest of the story, I see that in the next-to-last paragraph the second sentence is inexplicably uncapitalized:

But how did the commercial do in the category that really counts: selling cars? for 2009, Kia's sales were close to 10% higher, a bump the company partly attributed to sales of the Soul.

Since journalists don’t get to claim a dispensation under the poetic license, the quote above consists of two sentences, the second starting after the question mark and therefore requiring a capital F. So go fix it. Well discuss whether audiences can be “impacted” (fourth paragraph) another time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A first response to Jeff Jarvis’ column in The Guardian

Jeff Jarvis got all up in Rupert Murdoch’s face over Murdoch’s plan to start charging for access to The Times (London). The column ran in The Guardian, which a commenter pointed out is losing millions of pounds each month. It is well worth reading, and before more time passes I want to post some of my thoughts on what Jarvis said about the future of newspapers, free versus paid content on the Internet, and low-cost news businesses.
  • Why so emotional, Jeff? Rupert Murdoch instituting a paywall isn’t intended as a personal affront to you. It’s just business.
  • If something can’t go on the way it has, it won’t. There is no reason why there won’t be a second bursting of an Internet bubble, though this won’t return the genie to the bottle or restore newspapers and magazines to financial health. But it’s unreasonable to expect publishers (or anyone) to go on losing money year after year if profitability isn’t imminent.
  • Real journalism (sourced, fact checked) isn’t for amateurs. That doesn’t mean they can’t do it but that doing it consistently and well, and maintaining a site of some kind, is not going to be common. (See Dr. Johnson quote in the right column.) Some people keep on with their hobby, a very few make money at it, many give it up. Opinion is easy; news stories take time.
  • If journalism can’t pay more than twice the minimum wage, why should anyone with intelligence and ability go into the field?
  • What’s my personal bias in this? I don’t want to read a full newspaper or magazine on a computer monitor, e-book reader, or iPad. I don’t want to spend that much time tethered to the screen when I’m not at work. I would be willing to pay for an online subscription to The New York Times, but if I could afford it I’d prefer to buy it each day and read it on my way to and from work. I won’t subscribe to all the papers whose Web sites I look at now—very occasionally, to be sure. I almost never watch network TV news (PBS News Hour aside, usually on Friday for Shields and Brooks, and Washington Week—maybe I should have majored in poli sci) so I’m definitely in a minority here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #17
Before too much more time passes I would like to welcome Hilton Als and The New Yorker copyediting team to the Hall of Embarrassing Usage with this example from the February 15/22, 2010, issue.

When the camera hones in on Linney’s heart-shaped face...

I confess that I had to look up ‟home in on” and ‟hone” in the dictionary before I could be sure that I wasn’t the one who was confused. After all, I’m just a freelance copy editor. The New Yorker is — or used to be — one of the best edited magazines in the country. As this example shows, ‟used to be” is more like it.
Horton Foote and David Mamet in Conversation, part II

Here is another page of my notes on the program Horton Foote and David Mamet gave at the 92nd Street Y in 1986, the first part of which is here. I will post additional material if I find more pages.

Mamet: [In Hollywood] if someone gets shot in Act III, they don’t see why they can’t get shot in Acts I and II also.

Mamet: More and more, the kind of movie I like is a silent movie.

Mamet: Wait a second—you’re writing about human beings and I’m writing about Chicago?
Foote: I mean, human beings in Chicago.

Mamet: ...wishing they hadn’t sent the limo because you know you’re going to pay for it at the story conference.

Mamet: They always invite me to come on the set... they never mean it. Sure, I’d love to stand on the corner for three hours feeling like a damn fool while they massacre my screenplay.

Mamet: It’s like the mother of Moses—you just watch your baby go [when you sell the copyright].

Mamet: All you can put on the screen is the narrative line or what Aristotle called the ‟structure of the incidents.”

Foote: Couldn’t your work [About Last Night, based on Sexual Perversity in Chicago] have been done correctly?
Mamet: Yes, but it was done by venal and unpleasant people.

Foote: I wanted to be an actor in the worst way.
Mamet: I did too. I was an actor in the worst way.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #16

VentureBeat is a Copyeditor-Free Zone.

Keeping the experience inside the social network makes the user inclined to stay their longer or even share it with friends.
Kim-Mai Cutler, author of the above blunder, must belong to the generation that doesn’t see any difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” The sentence quoted above comes from ‟Marketers: ‘Twitter Is Your Small Forward, Facebook Is the Point Guard,’ ” a story carried by The New York Times’ Technology section,which isn’t responsible for the error. They have enough of their own to worry about (note correct use of “their”).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #15

Blues on the Subway

New York Daily News is welcomed to the blog with this story by Pete Donohoe, a staff writer, about a 3-D presentation available to a relative handful of subway riders: Ageing subway goes 3-D. Go down to the seventh paragraph and you will find this quote from a passerby:
Still, as Fleurante pointed out, “You don’t see stuff like this everyday in the subway. Only in New York, right?”
Wrong, Pete! You don’t see stuff like that every day.