Don’t fret over this headline

A letter to the editor to The News & Observer takes the Raleigh newspaper to task for this headline in its print edition: “Teachers fret over budget plans.”

The problem? The verb.

The letter writer, who is the head of the education department at Meredith College, perceives it as an insult: “The headline demeans the teaching profession. Teachers are not fretting; teachers have serious concerns and questions about major changes in N.C.’s spending on education.”

As a parent of a student in the Wake County schools and a resident of North Carolina, I share the reader’s concerns about the General Assembly’s cuts to public education. But I disagree that “fret” is pejorative.

Typical definitions of “fret” go like this: “to become vexed or worried” or “to be visibly anxious.” The educators quoted in this story reflect those feelings.

It helps headline writers that “fret” is a commonly used word that consists of just four letters. That’s probably why it appeared in that headline. It’s a suitable word choice and not a slight to teachers. There’s no need, therefore, to fret about this headline.


Charles Apple goes solo

Since 2010, my friend and former colleague Charles Apple has written a popular blog on the website of the American Copy Editors Society. Now Charles is leaving ACES and taking his insights to a new site under his own name.

Charles explains his reasoning in full in this introductory post, but basically, it sounds like he is ready to be a solo artist. He will still touch on familiar themes about editing and design. I am certain that Charles will continue to be a must-read on those topics and on journalism generally.

Thank you, Charles, for your work with ACES. Best wishes on your new venture.

Telling the flowing story of the Colorado River

Since 2009, the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill has been a part of the News21 initiative, which explores new ways to report, edit and present news and information.

Students at UNC have focused their coverage on energy and the environment. They have told stories about coal and water, among other topics. Their work has won a slew of awards, and the 2012 edition has been nominated for an Emmy.

This year’s project, Over Water Under Fire, is more narrowly focused, examining the role of the Colorado River. Using text and graphics, the site offers insights to the river’s history as a source of water and energy. Intertwined with that presentation is a video story about veterans rafting down the river as part of their recovery from PTSD.

Congratulations to this year’s Powering A Nation team on a powerful and compelling project. I encourage everyone to spend some time with the site and to take a look the project’s blog to see how it came together.