Stealing and concealing the news

People who steal newspapers off of your front porch are pests. People who steal newspapers en masse to stop readers from getting the news are criminals.

That’s what appears to be happening today on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The Daily Tar Heel reports that about 10,000 papers were taken from newsracks in the wee hours Wednesday. The paper is printing more and redistributing them on campus today.

Meanwhile, the DTH Web site is unaffected. It includes an update about the thefts, and the front page is available in .pdf format. You can’t steal that.

UPDATE: Sigma Chi members admit that they are the ones who stole the papers.

Time, place and manner

Discussion of alternative story forms (timelines, Q&A material, checklists, etc.) almost always includes this question: “They must be great for the Web too, right?”

Sometimes, but not always. In fact, the print version of these forms often works better than its online counterpart. This timeline, a part of the News & Observer coverage of the firing of Wolfpack football coach Chuck Amato, is an example where something gets lost in the translation between media.

Because this is a long timeline, the photo desk and designers have decided to include some images to illustrate Amato’s tenure at N.C. State. (Rule of thumb: If you have more than six items in a timeline, add photos and graphics to break up the type.) This is somewhat effective, although the photos could have been better integrated into the timeline. As it is, the reader is still faced with lengthy stretches of text, perhaps too many.

Still, it works better than the online version. There, the timeline is almost all text. Even the bold lede-ins for each date have disappeared, which makes this version look like an unpolished Word document. An accompanying link directs readers to a slideshow presentation of the Amato images. By divorcing the text and the photos, the Web version becomes ponderous. Perhaps taking the print version and making it a .pdf would have been a better way to handle this.

In the contest between online and print, chalk one up for the newspaper.

A colleague passes on

Bob Stevenson, a professor at the UNC journalism school, has died. Here’s how Jean Folkerts, the dean, announced his passing:

The School and Journalism and Mass Communication has lost a dear friend, and our field has lost a renowned scholar. Robert L. Stevenson, a Kenan professor and a member of our faculty since 1975, suffered a heart attack and died Saturday afternoon.

The School will host a memorial service for Bob, and he will be buried in his native Wisconsin. Please watch our Web site for details.

I took Stevenson’s research methods class in the fall of 1991. The course helped me become more analytical in my editing, and thanks to him, I am able to easily detect faulty surveys and other bogus research.

Thank you, Bob.

Where the skies are so blue

Maybe it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fault that people mistake Birmingham for the capital of Alabama, as seen in this recent News & Observer article in the Business section. That band, after all, did famously sing in “Sweet Home Alabama” that “in Birmingham they love the governor.” But that doesn’t mean the governor works there.

For the record, Montgomery is the capital of Alabama. Frankfort (not Lexington or Louisville) is the capital of Kentucky, and the capital of Missouri is Jefferson City (not St. Louis). And Lynyrd Skynyrd was from Florida, not Alabama.

Deviated preverts?

Slate examines the New York Post’s apparent fascination with “perv” as a headline word. “Fiend” is also popular.

The examples mentioned in the Slate article don’t include the one I use in my editing class when discussing libel:

Vatican sacks six pervy N.Y. priests

Here’s the catch: Two of the priests were convicted of sex crimes; the others were punished by the Catholic Church for unknown reasons under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Yet the Post lumped them together as pervs.