The Editor's Desk

Thoughts on editing for print and digital media

Month: December, 2011

This blog’s greatest hits of 2011

This blog is taking the rest of the month off. In the holiday spirit of re-gifting, I offer the top 10 posts on this blog for 2011, as selected by you, the readers, with the number of page views in parentheses.

Season’s greetings, and happy reading!

1. What’s your style for blog titles? (3,391)

2. Memorable headlines: BASTARDS! (2,158)

3. Memorable headlines: The filth and the fury! (1,733)

4. Memorable headlines: GOTCHA (1,727)

5. A tribute to N&O copy editors and page designers (1,635)

6. Playing with style: Lego or LEGO? (1,074)

7. Memorable headlines: Dewey defeats Truman (945)

8. Cutlines or captions? (734)

9. My favorite newspaper names in North Carolina (675)

10. Student guest post: The evolution of chat-speak (511)

Welcoming Pam Nelson to the ACES site

Pam Nelson, a friend and former colleague, has moved her Grammar Guide blog to the website of the American Copy Editors Society.

I worked with Pam twice at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., from 1992-1997 and 2001-2005. She’s a wonderful colleague, easygoing and dedicated.

In 2010, Pam was a contestant on “Jeopardy!” and my son and I cheered her on when the show aired. She didn’t win, but she did us copy editors proud.

Earlier this year, when McClatchy dissolved the N&O copy desk and sent those tasks to an editing hub in Charlotte, Pam took an offer to work there. As she explained in her first post for the new blog, she did so because she believes in copy editing.

“We add value to the articles that we touch — making sure that the facts are complete, that the assertions are supported and that the writing is clear enough so the facts and assertions can be understood,” she writes. “We are not extras. We are essential.”

Please join me in welcoming Pam to the ACES site. We’re lucky to have her wit and insight there. Thanks also to the N&O, for allowing ACES to repost the archives and quizzes from Pam’s former blog.

Q&A with N&Oops

N&Oops is a blog and Twitter feed that launched this autumn to document mistakes in The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. The blog’s anonymous author is a “former journalist who left newspapers voluntarily several years ago and harbors no bitterness toward the industry.” In this Q&A, conducted by email, N&Oops discusses what inspired the blog’s origins and goals.

Q. What is the purpose of your blog, and what inspired it?

A. Basically the purpose of the blog is to point out obvious errors in the N&O, especially the ones that are amusing. For the purpose of the blog, an “obvious error” would be one that could be spotted with doing little or no research.

It’s also somewhat of a social media experiment and something to do for fun. The “Wake Cunty” error was the one that helped push it from an idea to reality.

Q. What types of errors do you see? Are themes emerging?

A. There seem to be a lot of errors in captions and subheadlines. The sports section also seems to have more errors than other sections, probably due to tighter deadlines.

Q. You’ve noted errors in email alerts from newsobserver.com and Tweets from N&O writers and editors. Do you think those should be held to the same standard as what appears in print?

A. Errors are errors and typos are typos, regardless of the medium. Readers expect the N&O to have names spelled accurately and correct punctuation, even in tweets and alerts.

Q. Your blog and Twitter feed allow you to remain anonymous. Do you see a time when you would identify yourself?

A. Likely not, as this is intended to be contributor-driven. So far, there have been contributions from at least 10 different people.

Q. What do you see as the endgame for the blog? In other words, is there a “mission accomplished”?

A. No endgame. How long posting keeps up at the current pace depends mostly on contributor submissions and the volume of errors.

My favorite bowl names of the past

A ticket stub from the now-defunct Bluebonnet Bowl, played at the now-defunct Astrodome in Houston.

It’s bowl season in college football. Fans will get to enjoy more than 30 games in the next few weeks. Headline writers will be tempted to “go bowling,” in an attempt to “bowl over” readers.

Nowadays, names for most bowls contain corporate names for companies, industry groups and chain restaurants. But it hasn’t always been that way.

The bowl games of days past are filled with colorful names that reflect the aspirations, culture and history of the places where they took place. Here are my 10 favorites, listed in random order and accompanied by the cities that hosted them:

  • Cigar Bowl (Tampa)
  • All-American Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.)
  • Cosmopolitan Bowl (Alexandria, La.)
  • Gotham Bowl (New York City)
  • Garden State Bowl (East Rutherford, N.J.)
  • Freedom Bowl (Anaheim, Calif.)
  • Oyster Bowl (Norfolk, Va.)
  • Aviation Bowl (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Bluebonnet Bowl (Houston)
  • Aloha Bowl (Honolulu)

On the covers of the Rolling Stone

On a recent visit to my house, my mom brought along a box of Rolling Stone magazines that she’d found in the attic. The issues were from the early 1980s, when I subscribed to the magazine as a high school student and would-be music critic.

Nearly 30 years on, I am enjoying looking through these magazines. Here are some things I have observed:

  • Mick Jagger was on the cover a lot, and so was U2.
  • Phil Collins, Jack Nicholson and Sting had hair. John Oates had a moustache.
  • Julian Lennon looked like an erstwhile member of Duran Duran.
  • Ads for cigarettes and alcohol were common. Joe Camel and Two Fingers Tequila appeared often.
  • Record clubs were going full bore. Who would pass up an offer of 12 records or cassettes for a penny?
  • Cocaine and herpes were frequent topics of coverage.
  • Pages were gray, and type was smaller. Big caps were BIG.
  • Short poems were used on occasion, perhaps to fill gaps in the layout.
  • Longer fiction pieces by the likes of Jackie Collins, Stephen King and Tom Wolfe consumed many pages.
  • Writers of headlines and captions often used puns, just as they do now. For example, the Cars were “still in high gear” with Ric Ocasek “behind the wheel.”
  • Speaking of the Cars, drummer David Robinson was miffed when he was “replaced by a computer” on the “Heartbeat City” album.
  • CD players used “lasers and computers” to play music flawlessly, and there was “even an infrared remote control” to switch tracks instantly.
  • Record companies sold collections of music videos on VHS. One called “Primetime Cuts” included songs by Cyndi Lauper, Quiet Riot and Bonnie Tyler.
  • Rolling Stone’s pages were big, and issues were thick. That’s not true anymore, as the magazine has shrunk physically.

I stopped reading Rolling Stone sometime in college, switching to Spin magazine for a bit and picking up the now-defunct Musician on occasion. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I read British music magazines like Q.

Now, I rarely read music magazines, getting most of my news and reviews online, and in The News & Observer. And I never became a music critic. So it goes.

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