The Editor's Desk

Thoughts on editing for print and digital media

Month: December, 2008

Holiday hiatus

xmas-apostrophe1This blog is taking the rest of the year off. Thank you for visiting and contributing to the growth of readership here.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous 2009. See you in the new year!

(Creative Commons image)

Listen to your grammar

Some people make decisions about grammar based on how a sentence sounds. If you are one of those people, this new feature at The Wichita Eagle is for you.

Each Monday, Grammar Monkeys will offer grammar tips in a podcast. The first post is about “lay” versus “lie.” Give it a listen.

What to buy a copy editor for Christmas

There’s a week to go before Christmas. Looking for something for that copy editor on your list? Here are some gift ideas:

The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages 1851-2008. The title of this set says it all. The DVDs contain every front page in that span of time. The hefty book picks the big moments, so you can see how the NYT treated, say, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (the archduke, not the band).

A Webinar at NewsU. Most of Poynter’s e-learning site is free, but a few things cost a little bit of money. One (or more) of the archived Webinars would make a nice gift for someone looking for some distance education.

The World Almanac. I got one of these every year as a kid, and it was always one of my favorite presents. It’s still an essential resource for editing and great for bedtime reading.

A pica pole. For the old-timer, it’s an item that will bring back memories, perhaps paired with a sizing wheel. For the online crowd, buy the domain name, which is for sale.

An Obama page plate. Of all the election-related merchandise out there, this item from the Los Angeles Times is unusual. It’s an aluminum plate that could be used to produce a page on the press but is also suitable for framing.

ACES membership. Join the American Copy Editors Society for a gift that lasts all year.

Scrabble, Diamond Anniversary Edition. This new version of the classic game has a portable case and cool new colors.

“The Office” Ultimate Package. This will leave you satisfied and smiling. (That’s what she said!) Read more about the intersection of “The Office” and the newsroom here.

Good luck in your holiday shopping. Whatever you get, consider wrapping it in fun Onion gift paper.

Anastasia screamed in vain

The News & Observer has been kind enough to publish a guest column that I recently submitted. The topic is the proliferation of the policy “czar” in American politics.

The column appears online and in print on the op-ed page today (packaged with this column by William Kristol). Thanks to Allen Torrey and Burgetta Wheeler at the N&O for agreeing to publish the piece and for their editing, headline writing and design.

It’s the new style

The journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill has its own stylebook. It’s upated periodically, and last week, I had the pleasure of proofreading the latest edition. My colleague Bill Cloud is the editor.

It was a real meta-experience to proofread a stylebook. This edition, at about 60 pages, eliminates some of the material about media law but adds several new entries in the style section. Most of those are issues of local concern — new names for the pharmacy school and school of public health, what to call the main dining hall, etc. A few entries overrule the AP stylebook.

The most contentious entry for the faculty is what to call the university on first reference. Some prefer the full name: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On the other end is the lecturer who argues that “Carolina” is sufficient. This edition of the stylebook is sticking with “UNC-Chapel Hill” as acceptable on first reference.

I found a few errors in the proofs, including a misspelled word and a few italics that needed to be plain text. The stylebook will be online in January, so if you happen to go there and see any errors, let us know. There’s always editing to be done.

Interesting reading

  • Ryan Teague Beckwith of Under the Dome, on the conflict and resolution between the language of the North Carolina constitution and the state’s first female governor.
  • Clay Shirky of New York University, on how newspapers failed to move when faced with glacial change.

When to pack and unpack your adjectives

The wise FEV offers solid advice about those pesky adjectives in this well-written post on Headsup: The Blog.

That insightful post reminded little old me of this adjective-themed episode of the nostalgia-inducing “Schoolhouse Rock.” Here’s my favorite part:

We hiked along without care.

Then we ran into a bear.

He was a hairy bear.

He was a scary bear.

We beat a hasty retreat from his lair.

And described him with adjectives.

Enjoy the 1970s-era video. If you are afraid the catchy song will get stuck in your already clogged brain, just read the clever words.

We beat ourselves

Here’s another example of why blogs at newspaper sites should be edited, at least for the basics. Take a look at this sentence on ACC Now, a News & Observer sports blog:

In 2002, West Virginia lost to West Virginia as the bowl debuted in Charlotte with a sellout crowd.

At this writing, the post with this error has been up for more than two hours. Shouldn’t someone notice that sort of thing after a while?

More on editing blogs here and here.

UPDATE: The error was corrected overnight, perhaps in response to a reader comment on the blog. At least it got taken care of, unlike this error, which still stands nearly a year after it was posted.

Cruel cuts at Gannett

It’s been a hard week at Gannett newspapers, where at least 2,000 people found out that they were losing their jobs. The independent Gannett Blog has documented the layoffs in detail, and it’s a depressing and horrifying experience to read the posts there.

Copy editors haven’t been exempt from the mayhem. In fact, at some Gannett papers, they are are bearing the brunt of the cuts. The Cincinnati Enquirer, for example, laid off news editor Kathy McDermott, who oversaw the editing for the front page. Copy editors in news and features were let go. The paper also said farewell to business editor Carolyn Pione, who has a strong background in copy editing.

It’s an alarming decision, particularly given Gannett’s emphasis on shorter stories and alternative story forms (or “charticles,” as the company prefers to call them). Those types of stories require especially careful editing. With fewer copy editors in newsrooms, Gannett papers will likely see a decline in their quality.

Mugged by Yahoo

yahoo-samesex

This grabbed image is from Yahoo’s list of “most popular” stories this morning. The photo seems to clash with the headline — who is that surly guy? And what does he have to do with Proposition 8? Is it possible Yahoo picked the wrong photo? It’s happened before.

Clicking on the photo or the headline doesn’t solve the mystery because both take you the same story. There’s no sign of the man there. This is an annoying trait of the Yahoo site. Readers should be able to click on the image and see it and a cutline.

So I am left wondering about the identity of the man and why his mug is paired with this story. He looks familiar. Can anyone tell us who he is?

UPDATE: Mystery solved, thanks to a Facebook friend. It appears that Yahoo’s “news on autopilot” has gone astray again, picking up “gay” in the caption for this photo for a murder suspect and matching it to the Prop 8 debate.

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