Thursday, August 28, 2003

This The Smoking Gun find on Arnold Schwarzenegger is a must-read, even if you don't live in California.

It's a 1977 article published in an adult magazine in which Scharzenegger discusses a gang bang, drug use and why bodybuilders "shouldn't feel like fags just because they want to have a nice-looking body."

The funny thing: This may help his chances at election.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

An AP story on low Germans in Kansas points out the perils of fearing hyphens:

The Fehrs are among thousands of low German-speaking migrants.

Let's make that low-German-speaking migrants, please, or migrants who speak low German.

A Finnish article on how dummy type gets into the paper or onto the Web.

It offers an interesting explanation of the ubiquitous Lorem ipsum solor sit amet... dummy type, from Cicero's "The Extremes of Good and Evil":

Just in case anyone has wondered what it MEANS, here is a rough translation of the opening: "Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure."

A book about editing, perchance?

More here.

For all those who complain that we shouldn't sweat the small stuff so much, I offer this correction.

Think twice before accepting that job in South Africa. You may have to add filing to your list of responsibilities.

The KC Star's ombudsman addresses vulgarity in the newspaper: namely, why the Star chose to use the quote "It really chaps my buns" in this story.

For example, he said that the copy desk recently deleted the word “crap” in a quote in a story. “Some thought that the word was OK to use, following the argument that this word is crucial to the lively tone of the story and shows how emphatic the guy is about his point. Others thought the story held up fine without the quote.”

This reminds me of my shock when learning, on one of my first days on the job, that "sucks" was a vulgarity that would never make it in the paper. Sucks. Can you even interview a kid without him saying that, like, sucks? I've raised my sensitivity meter since, and I'd even double-check before printing "crap" or "damn" in the paper.

But newspaper readers are fleeing -- or dying -- by the thousands every week. That sucks.

And prudishness isn't going to win us any young readers. So who, exactly, is our audience?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

This just in: "Citizens" is not synonymous with "residents."

And sometimes, just sometimes, it is OK to say "people."

Monday, August 25, 2003

This e-zine shows what can happen when you let editing go.

A reader writes in
I'm unsubscribing because it's very difficult to put faith in advice about how to publish an email newsletter from folks who frequently make grammatical and spelling errors in their newsletters.

Another issue gives newsletter editors some tips on how to eradicate errors, including this advice: I find that I do a much better job of proofreading when I work from a printed copy, standing up.

Tom Mangan points out that Fox News has ordered its staff to curb the Arnold Schwarzenegger puns. The New York Times' headline on the story: Fox Plays Terminator, Ending Schwarzenegger Movie Puns.

It's a temptation tough to resist.

But the Atlanta Journal Constitution did just fine with this one: Schwarzenegger (there, it fits fine). It's about headline writers' struggles to get Arnold's name in print. To be honest, Schwarzenegger is rarely showing up in headlines where I work, The Wichita Eagle. Our fallback? Arnold.

It seldom works, but it's fun for about five minutes anyway:

Try the Gender Genie, an algorithm that tries to determine your gender simply by what you write.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

What is reporters' problem with the word "relatives"? It's like using it in a story will cast a plague on your "family members." Sheesh.

So reporters, listen up:

"Relatives" is shorter than "family members."

Saturday, August 23, 2003

I just noticed that one of the changes recommended at the New York Times is to "revise the centralized management of copy editors, with the aim of aligning those editors more closely with the desks they serve."

Can anyone translate that for me?

Another review of the Chicago Manual of Style. Am I sick for thinking these are fun to read?

Screw Big Brother. is watching.

I've visited several Web sites that boasted an ad that addressed me by name. It's freaky the first time it happens, and Amazon knows it. They link to an explainer on the bottom of the ads: How do we know your name?

Five bands I've never seen that I'd drive five hours to see:
1. McLusky
2. Beulah
3. Hot Hot Heat
4. Built to Spill
5. The Strokes

Five bands I have seen but still merit the five-hour drive to see again:
1. Spoon
2. Superchunk
3. The New Pornographers
4. Magnetic Fields
5. Versus

Five bands that have broken up but should go on a reunion tour for my benefit:
1. The Pixies
2. Pavement
3. Butterglory
4. Guv'ner
5. Heavenly

Friday, August 22, 2003

I drove the 2.5 hours to Lawrence, Kan., last night to see the New Pornographers, a poppy six-piece all-star band out of Vancouver. With keyboards. I love keyboards.

There's a pattern emerging in my trips to Lawrence:

1. Get there early to buy tickets, in the off chance a show will sell out (like Spoon last month).

2. Go to the Replay Lounge to play hours of pinball — time usually equally split betweent the Playboy machine and the Magic Theatre. Drink pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

3. Take a break to walk across Massachusetts to Papa Keno's Pizzeria. Eat a delicious slice of pizza with mushroom and feta, and some breadsticks that are probably (i.e. assuredly) unnecessary. Top it all of with refreshing Mr. Pibb (not available in Wichita).

4. Kill another hour or so at the Replay. Finish another — ill-advised — pitcher of PBR.

5. Head to the Bottleneck for the show.

It's a great pattern, one I'd like to repeat weekly. Alas, there aren't shows good enough to merit weekly visits to Lawrence. But the scheduled concerts in the coming months bode well for repeat visits.

The New Pornographers were fantastic. Neko Case, voted's Sexiest Babe if Indie Rock, was indeed a looker. The drummer was intense. The songs were masterful, even if the keyboard was mixed a little low.

The set list:
Electric Version
The End of Medicine
To Wild Homes
The Laws Have Changed
Mystery Hours
The Body Says No
Ballad of a Comeback Kid
Mass Romantic
Testament to Youth in Verse
Miss Teen Wordpower
July Jones
It's Only Divine Right
The Fake Headlines
All for Swingin' Around You
The Slow Descent into Alcoholism
Letter from an Occupant

There were others. I'll remember later. Noticeably absent was "Chump Change," but you can't fault them for playing too little. A great show.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Poynter needs to do a study on Slate headlines and how taking their lead could save newspapers.

These are stories I want to read because of their headlines:
Mob bosses have lousy, infrequent sex.
Can your car's computer squeal if you were speeding before a crash?
A picture of Ronald McDonald next to: Sue his lard ass.
Should a bisexual teenage girl be allowed to have sleepovers?

And then there are the headlines that are so useful they put a Swiss Army knife to shame:
How to tell a virus from a worm.
Why Texas has a power grid all to itself.
How will California's recall election work?
Which allies have troops in Iraq?

And, while I'm gushing, I love how informational Slate's corrections are. I understand what was wrong and what it should have been. Think that's so easy? Compare Slate's to The Wichita Eagle's.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

This column on getting news on the Web has a fantastic rundown of what copy editors do. Ahem.

Getting a story online is a major technical achievement under normal conditions. The writer has to gather information, write the story in a publishing template, do headlines; a copy editor goes over it all looking for misplaced commas and nasty typos that creep in; a Web producer develops the look for the story. It has to be co-ordinated so the story is posted with all of its elements in place. It's like publishing a newspaper but much faster, with minute-to-minute deadlines.

This panning of the Chicago Manual of Style is yet another reason to love the great Slate.

A teaser:

The final item of a list on the back cover, ("Incorporates recent changes in style, usage, and in computer technology") left a lone noun stuck between two prepositional phrases, and thus violated the vital, mind-toning principle of parallelism, which holds that items in a series should be phrased in equivalent form. Maybe the blunder should have come as no surprise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I have given up my quest to forward all spam to the FTC. I was beginning to feel as if I were spending more time forwarding mail than editing stories.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Having just finished the latest Harry Potter book, I can't shake the feeling that good newspapers are edited better than good books.

I have no problem with incomplete sentences. But comma splices? Why!?

And this brings up a question that just needs to be asked: What the hell is so wrong with the semicolon? Why are people so afraid?

The Wichita City Council is considering a rule restricting the length of time a dog can be tied up to three one-hour periods a day.

A co-worker's response: "I'd like to be the worker who goes around with a piece of chalk marking dogs' legs."

I, however, would not.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

For weeks, I have wondered why Gawker dropped of the face of Friendster. I mean, they inflated my friend total by thousands.

Now I see why.

All of a sudden, I find myself considering the merits of censorship.

Read this.