The headline orders, exhorts, cajoles, advises,urges and dictates. That's because it's in the imperative mood. Parents use the imperative to train children (Don't do that!) and marketeers use the imperative to sell their wares (Buy now!) Why a
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The headline orders, exhorts, cajoles, advises,urges and dictates. That's because it's in the imperative mood. Parents use the imperative to train children (Don't do that!) and marketeers use the imperative to sell their wares (Buy now!) Why a
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I read, eager to discover some far-reaching decision affecting life, property and happiness in my little town. Nope. Ross explains a recent ruling in the case decides whether the actual trial should be held in Miami or Egypt. He doesn't mention a local lawyer on the case or that one of the injured is from these parts, so I assume there’s no connection.
The relevance is discovered in the phone book: The columnist is a principal in a firm that’s a major advertiser with this newspaper, a connection not disclosed in the column. The nice attorney buys ads, the publisher awards him editorial control.
Quid pro quo. I rest my case
Birds Call Kid a Winner
Gavin, we assume, was in fine feather. Thanks to staff writer John Lawhorne for the giggle.
DeSoto County -- Eighteen 4-H exhibitors took part in this year's poultry show at the DeSoto County Fair, entering 105 birds, which announced the winners this week.
.....Grand champion of the open show was five-year-old Gavin Sullivan.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Ritter's news is her employer is “celebrating” (yuck) a new unit at Fawcett Memorial Hospital. After making like she’s actually interviewed a couple of doctors about their “dreams” and “excitement,” she reports her employer provides “state-of-the-art” equipment where patients are treated “like family.” All those clichés are common among second-rate public relations writers. But most flacks -- and newspaper copydesk editors -- are bright enough to avoid the most sophomoric adjectives of all:
Another unique and very important feature of the program is its staff of dedicated nurses.
Tell us, please, what hospital-written news release has not mentioned its dedicated nurses? None of this is unique, Michelle.
The nurses that work in the Spine and Orthopedic Center are specially trained ...
Patients expect the staff to have special training. Otherwise, why go to a specialist?
...and uniquely skilled to treat this type of patient.
Does Ritter expect readers to believe no other orthopedic service in the country trains its orthopedic nurses?
They work only with patients who have had spine or orthopedic procedures ....
And yet at various points in the rest of the story, Ritter claims the staff works with families, doctors, the concierge on call, visitors, and the rest of the hospital’s staff as needed. There’s no “only” about it.
...so these patients receive the maximum attention that they need to heal quickly and effectively
Umm, attention doesn't promote healing, Doctor Ritter. Faulty cause and effect.
Ritter concludes in a tone of breathless amazement, calling even the nurse’s uniforms unique. The photo shows blue golf shirts and beige jackets and vests. Unique they are not.
And unfortunately, neither is this tired and windy piece of free, unedited copy provided by a regular advertiser and positioned as both the cover and "double truck" centerpiece in the Sunday tab.
For the weekly plagiarism discussion ...
Come On, Chip -- You Know You Should Cite a Source or Two
Local colorist Chip Ballard is a citizen journalist. He's also a teacher and, as such, knows quite well that if we don't cite our sources, we're plagiarizing.
Ballard teaches children, and he regularly publishes his own works. Yet, this morning, he and Charlotte Sun editors found it acceptable to run a long paen to American writer John O'Hara without one word of attribution. It seems Ballard woke up one sunny morning knowing exactly what Dorothy Parker said to John O'Hara and what O'Hara said to John Steinbeck and what New York hotels John O'Hara drank at, and when and with whom.
Chip, you don't have to steal something word-for-word to plagiarize. If you rewrite the research, ideas, and information of O'Hara's biographers and present without acknowledging their efforts under your byline, you are a plagiarist.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
"The only thing newspapers still have going for them is their reputation for telling the truth, going deep, and reporting good stories," Weinstein writes.
"There's a place for reader blogs and community participation in the 21st-century newspaper, but let's not kid ourselves that they are a substitute for what people look for in their morning paper," Weinstein writes.
Reader-generated content and citizen journalism aren't real journalism -- and readers know the difference.
Copy thrown up on the Web seemingly just to fill space -- readers recognize the sloppy, shoddy work of a demoralized "couldn't care less" staff, dancing as fast as it can.
You can vote Monday but some stuff closed for MLK day
The story lead: "You can still vote in the Florida presidential primary on Monday, but there are a lot of closings people should be aware of."
And, by the way, early voting in DeSoto County is only at the Supervisor of Elections office and "government offices for counties and cities in Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota are closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday." So tell us, please, how we can "still vote" on Monday.
Friday, January 18, 2008
The reporter's most profound failure is the ease with which he and his suit-source turn real people into abstractions: "five layoffs," "staff," and "positions." The word "person" is not used once. "Job" doesn't even enter the picture.
...DeSoto Memorial Hospital's Chief Executive Officer Vincent Sica said today that five layoffs at the hospital’s Center for Family Health were not related to the new $20 million hospital addition.
...Sica said five positions at DMH’s Center for Family Health had been eliminated, due to a change in the hospital’s philosophy regarding the family center. The staff reduction led to the layoffs, with the goal of increasing patient satisfaction.
...The hospital board has decided to focus on operating the center more like a doctor’s office, Sica said.
..."Originally, we would bring new physicians into the center and let them work for a couple of years to build up their patient relations. Then they would go out on their own and set up a private practice.
..."We were trying to run the center as a hybrid -- half doctor’s office and half walk-in clinic,” Sica said.
Yup, that's the entire story, beginning to end. I'm almost at a loss for words. Sun Coast Media Group must have laid off all its copy editors for this to make it through the pipeline. And shame on John Lawhorne for failing journalism so completely.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
"One requirement is for government agencies to have a written policy statement notifying the public ... "
"... notify the public that the city collects Social Security numbers for specific written reasons ..."
"... may not collect Social Security numbers ... unless they provide a written explanation ..."
"...may not collect a Social Security number unless the purpose ... is stated in writing. "
Okay, so the staff writer can't write very well. The reporting part of the job-with-benefits could also use some attention from a friendly editor, willing to question the copy. Here's what our man on the scene passes off as the rest of the story. We call it The Art of Reporting Nothing ...
Please, what wording so perplexed five adults? What did they change that mystery wording to? What takes a dead-for-lack-of-a-second and turns it into a unanimous vote?
... City staff had prepared a proposed resolution for the council's consideration. Council member Robert Heine Sr. motioned approval of the resolution, but the motion died for lack of a second.
... Councilmember Lorenzo Dixon said he took issue with some of the wording.
... With the motion dead, the council was perplexed.
... The law says a policy must be adopted by Jan. 31, adivsed City Attorney David Holloman. "But the law doesn't say we have to use this language, does it?" asked Dixon.
... "No," said Holloman. He said the council could modify the resolution. "This is not an ordinance."
... The council then went on to revise the wording in the proposed resolution to meet the approval of the council. The final vote was unanimous.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
That wall has come tumbling down at the Charlotte Sun. Joe Gallimore and four other men who need a job from Publisher David Dunn-Rankin have been awarded the business page to pimp for regular advertisers. So far, it's been a banner for a pizza parlor where the writer likes to eat and a hair shop where he likes to get his hair cut. Today, it's a chiropractor and an antiques dealer who buy their ads from the annual rate sheet.
"If you are ever in need of great chiropractic care, I suggest the Kirschner Chiropractic and Wellness Centre," writes the former grocery-clerk-now-officially-a-real-newsman. And just in case a reader's back hurts too badly to look up the phone number, Gallimore uses the news column to give it, along with directions to the front door. In case readers miss the message, Gallimore describes the bone-cracker's services and then reports: "Just typing that paragraph felt soothing and peaceful."
After leaving the chiro's office, Gallimore trots over to the antique-store district to pimp for a man he fondly calls "the ambassador," a dealer who buys regular advertising. The favor is returned by awarding the same dealer regular access to the news hole to write
It's a sad, sad day for newspapering in Southwest Florida -- and Dunn-Rankin is proud of it ...
"Six workers terminated for dropping ball with dead girls"
Next in need of a headline writer (not a page pourer): "Blood bank facing blood shortage"
And then, there's today's Big Story ...
Today's Big Story leads this way: "ARCADIA -- Now that the holiday season is over, the Arcadia City Council can settle down into its twice monthly meeting rhythm again."
And they say nothing ever happens in our little town.
Flash: A real reporter has been assigned to write the second-day report on the cop-kills-robber story that broke over the weekend. Unfortunately, he got trees and people mixed up in an unwarranted search for local color: "Law enforcement officials have yet to release the name of the man who was felled during a shootout Saturday night with the Zolfo Springs Police Department." Paul Bunyon, we presume, will be found at fault.
And no, the man killed didn't have shootout with the department. Remember, departments don't kill robbers; cops kill robbers.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Police were engaged in a volley of gunfire with three suspects Saturday night, killing one of them after stopping a car for speeding in a routine traffic violation. The suspect died Sunday morning.
Later, police learned that the suspects, described as "three Hispanic males," had robbed the Wauchula Hills Super Market.The other two gunmen fled into nearby woods and are still at large, police said. Two bullet holes pierced the police car. Neither police officer was injured. A FDLE investigation is ongoing.
1. How many cops? Which city's finest shot a man during a "routine traffic violation?" Is speeding a routine traffic violation in Zolfo Springs? Was the injured man given medical assistance? Where did he die?
2. Killing someone for a traffic violation is fairly serious. How did this come about? What is the name of the policeperson who shot the traffic violator? Did the driver or a passenger pull a gun?
3. Why are the men at the traffic stop "suspects" if police didn't learn until later a store had been robbed? How does Sun Correspondent Chip Ballard know these three men had robbed the store? There's been no trial, but our citizen reporter has convicted them in the second graf -- and no copy editor caught it.
4. What was taken in the robbery? What's the address of the market? Who was on duty at the store? Time?
5. FDLE is a first reference; spell it out. What's being investigated: the robbery, the "routine" traffic stop, the police shooting, or all of it? When is a report expected?
6. What's the dead man's name? It has been more than 24 hours since Saturday night -- plenty of time to track it down.
Chip Ballard is a local scribe, specializing in country nostalgia and Elvis bios. Some might classify him as a "regional colorist," right up there with Sarah Orne Jewett. But covering the crackerbarrel and the police blotter require distinctly different writing techniques. Before asking Ballard to cover a sensitive local beat, perhaps Sun editors should offer to train the tyro. There's a story with a coherent narrative buried in here somewhere. Readers would appreciate getting that report.
Memo: Make it Local! ...
Local Residents tour $20-million addition to DMH
Local residents got their first look at DeSoto Memorial Hospital's new state-of-the-art, $20-million addition during a gala showcase Saturday.
"DeSoto County has somerthing to be very proud of," local entrepreneur and stylist Linda Summers said.
Local retiree Pat Gordon said, "I'm very impressed."
Who's Editing the Editors?Editor Dawn Krebs writes: "Overstuffed loveseats and soft accents give the area a ambiance that you stepped into someone's living room."
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The Englewood office’s general manager assembled a “business column” this week that suggests his publishers issued a memo ("Write a column!") and offered no training, guideline, editing, or even friendly advice about how to do it.
And poor the GM’s, who’ve been hanging around newsrooms for years, think this reporting business looks pretty easy and agreed to jump in the pool without a swimming lesson.
For example, over in Englewood, the lead is All About You Salon's grand re-opening (not, please, as in the head, a re-grand opening). But the brief lacks “when,” or “where” (Dearborn street is several country blocks long). And, the “why” is pretty fuzzy. The "re-grand opening," readers are informed, celebrates “the store has reopened.”
Next thing down: Nice Carla Stiver has been named Realtor of the Year, but which year? What organization handed her the trophy? What city does she live in, work from? When did the big event take place? Same problem with the next tier of award winners: who’s got all that community service? Which city fielded the year’s notable rookie? I’m reading this info in DeSoto with no “dateline” to provide a geographical or temporal context so the story has to. But it doesn’t. North Port is not the center of a universe whose fine denizens are instantly known in the hinterlands.
One more thing: Wal-Mart is a singular “it” not a plural “they.” Thus, “they” has no job in the sentence, “Wal-Mart has opened up its new liquor store in from of their building. From the looks of things, it is going fairly well.”
And one more thing. The phrases “looks of things” and “fairly well” mean what? General managers recruited to write business columns should be gently coached not to assert and give opinions without providing readers with a fact or two supporting the journalistic allegations. Try this: “At 10 last Saturday morning, a steady stream of customers emerged from the new Wal-Mart liquor store lugging bags bulging with round, square and fat-bellied bottles. As the automatic slider doors whooshed open in the Englewood sun, I could hear the credit-card reader’s ca-ching-beep, ca-ching-beep from deep within as Mary Brown, the store’s clerk, worked through a queue of four or five customers – each pushing a cart bulging with potent potables. From the looks of things, the new liquor store seems to be off to a good start.”
And, not to make too big a deal of it, but a real reporter would take five minutes to find out how many liquor stores North Port has, identify two or three top sellers (the state has these figures), and maybe point out if a Wal-Mart liquor store is positioned a discounter. After all, this is a business page report.
And one more thing...
And one more thing. A General Manager Reporter Columnist, no matter how smart, cannot foretell that Bob Marquette, who just relocated his pool-building business, will be building great pools. That’s fortune-telling and opining all rolled into one biased cookie.
And one more thing. Real reporters are not allowed to fulfill the “when” part of their journalistic obligations with “soon.” Telling readers Bobarino’s Pizza will have a grand opening “soon” is not helpful to readers.
And one more thing. That friendly advice giver (a.k.a. copy editor) would point out announcing a new menu at the Lock and Key restaurant requires a from-to reference. It might look like this: “The Lock and Key’s general manager has changed the menu from Caribbean seafood to Cajun home cooking,” or whatever.
Reporting -- particularly business reporting -- is not as easy as it looks, guys. Hook up with a good copy editor (one who doesn't design pages or pour Quark) and let him or her give you a couple of swimming lessons before jumping into the deep end.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Hillary has taken the lead
Voters at the Readers Poll have pushed Hillary Clinton into first place in which person they'd vote for if the presidential election was held now.
This writer's skill qualifies her for a Florida diploma and a job with benefits at America's Best Community Daily. Equally revealing is the reference to a woman who is a public figure. Would a male candidate be "Bill" or "Mitt" in this headline? I think not.
Writing reflects the quality of thinking -- clear or fuzzy, deep or shallow.
The morning's business page headline, Gold hits new all-time high, is as good an example as any.
"All-time" includes past, present and future -- all time. Even the best headline writer can't predict today's price is the forever high. And, the lazy adjective "new" simply gives the top-ranking guy at the breakfast table license to entertain the troops by rattling the paper and asking, "So what's the old all-time high?"
Instead of being regarded seriously, the newspaper becomes an object of laughter and derision, even among the cereal set.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The columnist leads twice in one sentence with his own sense of great amazement (“Ingenuity never ceases to amaze me, and I found myself amazed ...”) at a antique emporium owner who “controls the pricing system in her shop.”
Her pricing system is like wild horses, reined to orderly submission? Well, no. Over New Year’s, she discounted items with silver or gold on them and intends to run a red-discount promo on Valentine’s day. The columnist who finds himself amazed thinks her gimmick would have eliminated the tedium -- “30 to 60 hours” of effort -- he used to endure whenever the manager of a grocery store where he worked 20 years ordered him to change price stickers on baby food jars.
Strained peas 50 percent off for St. Patrick’s Day? Sorry, Joe. That’s not a pricing system. It’s a gimmick, a come-on, a loss leader, maybe. No retailer in the country calls carrots for half price on Halloween a pricing system.
Engulf Murals and Insult Italians
The Pulitzer Prize Finalist’s business columnist next goes all quivery over food. “When you’re in Arcadia ... and your excitement level is on high,” he pants, visit the Italian restaurant where “you will engulf the scenery of wonderful murals.”
If engulfing a mural or two isn’t enough reason to visit the eatery, Pulitzer Prize Finalist’s business columnist reports all during his meal he heard “a little Italian voice” in his head. In case readers are incapable of imagining a little Italian voice, he spells it out in his most culturally demeaning, stereotyped dialect: “Dat’s a good! Momma Mia Dat’s a big a pizza pie. Dat’s a Taste of Italy ...”
Sorry, Joe. I don’t think this is going to make the Sun a contender this year, either.
Non-sequitur Series for the New Year ...
The uncropped photo is of a very large woman holding very small dog, both staring into the camera. The cutline:
Come on down to meet Micro. He will start your New Year out right. Micro ... requires some attention at home, as he is not house-trained. If you think Micro would be the solution to your New Year's resolution, visit him at DeSoto County Animal Services kennels.
And how, exactly, will visiting a dog who pees on the rug start my New Year out right?
We'll overlook time problem; for most of us, the New Year started last week.
It just takes a while to catch up way out here, where according to this morning's screamer, the City Prepares for 2008.
Monday, January 7, 2008
The opening (can’t call it a lead): “Having a baby is a joyous experience.” Actually, having a baby might be a joyous experience for some. Maybe it was for Dawn Krebs, who opts to snag readers' attention using the tritest possible beginning. But, Dawn, for others, maybe not so joyous. And for yet others, maybe not joyous all.
“Giving birth sooner than expected, however, and transporting the newborn to an entirely different hospital for its care, can cause stress and anxiety.”
“But in a few months, that is about to change," Krebs breathlessly, dramatically announces. The joy is tainted by the twisted tense, but more importantly, what is about to change? The joyous experience? The stress? That last comma?
“In a few months” doesn’t do as effective a job as the “when” of a real news story, especially when there's no lead. How many months is few months? Two or twenty? It’s okay to report the hospital's new infant nursery is scheduled to open in March (no, Krebs can’t say it will happen because she don’t have a crystal ball). No frills, no drama, just a nice clean report of facts, at least the few this "editor" has been willing to share so far, will do.
Next graf. The reporter-editor defines neonate as a premature infant born at 37 weeks gestation. No. Neonate is medical lingo for newborn and applies to anyone under 28 days old. Neonate is not a synonym for premature – and what’s so premature about 37 weeks? “Full term” is generally considered 38 weeks after fertilization. Readers may ask, but this reporter will never tell.
The reporter-editor writes that neonates are “further defined by different levels,” but goes on to describe not the baby but the neonatal unit as a level two. One sentence purports to define the child; the next applies the definition to the facility.
Old Word Wolf often criticizes newspaper stories that seem to have been written by public relations writers: lack of neutrality, a focus on one product or event instead of casting a wider look around, creating spin aimed at making the news-releaser look good, and so on. In fact, Krebs’ report would have been better reported by the hospital's own ....
Professional PR writers, unlike Krebs, give readers core facts in the first paragraph. They unfold the story in an orderly fashion, inverted pyramid style, building up a foundation of lesser but often equally interesting facts, quotes and anecdotes.
For this story, a PR professional might tell readers how large the neonatal unit is, how much it cost, what it looks like, whether it is the first or fifth in the region. A PR professional, especially one capable in a medical setting, would not call a seven-pound baby premature, and would never have let a nurse utter such meaningless nonsense as mars this story.
A professional PR person would never insert an erroneous reference to neonatal intensive care into a quotation. A professional PR person would help readers distinguish between common perceptions of “preemies” and other types of newborns who require assistance. A good PR person would clarify that a 37-week gestation does not define premature birth. A good PR person would never leave the clichéd abstraction, “neonatal issues” to define the care rendered by pharmacists, radiologists and dietitians.
Skilled PR people spell out corporate names, such as HMA, on first or second reference and identify local significance in terms of size, beds, revenues and services. Skilled PR people systematically identify and eradicate passive voice, wordiness, clichéd and unclear writing and other ambiguities and silliness. They research and fact check. They don’t publish first drafts.
There are too many errors and too much silliness to wade through them all. OWW will simply close on one FCAT-level error to suggest this story, even in the hands of a hospital flack, would have been more accurate, interesting and readable than the Charlotte Sun’s reporting, writing and editing: “So in addition to any health problems that occurred by being born early, the family and hospital staff have to work out the logistics of moving the infant.”
Friday, January 4, 2008
[...] six pubescent young people, overseen by grownups who barely managed that right of passage ...
“Evita” [is a play by] Andrew Lloyd Weber ...
[...] my interest was peaked.
[...] awarded the first Do the Right Thing award ...
We kinda get along like the two main characters on TV’s “Boston Legal” ...
The literary club opened its meeting with a quote from Virginia Woolfe.
[...] jars of Cocoa Plum jelly ...
[...] students were encouraged to participate by submitting potential entries ...
There will be story time and crafts on each of the above days.
[...] according to the county’s clerk of the court office.
. The consensus is Florida citrus growers dodged a bullet Wednesday night, but experts say some other crops may not have escaped unscathed, and only time will tell the true extent of the damage.
. It seems that the clinic's contractor was given an long-outdated map that didn't reflect the fact that the nearest tap was now buried under pavement.
. The groundbreaking vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in girls is gaining a reputation as the most painful of childhood shots, health experts say. As Austin Powers would say, “Ouch, baby. Very Ouch.”
. Livingston told the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office an irate Diaz started yelling at her and Hutchinson, but they could not understand what he was saying -- then went to his truck and came back with a pistol.
And, it leaves paginators to write headlines ...
Community clinic grapples with the 'M word' By Bob Fliss
St. Vincent de Paul Community Health Care may be open by the end of next week.
The nonprofit clinic and pharmacy needs utility service and inspections to open a modular building at the Charlotte County Family Service Center campus at 21450 Gibralter Drive, Port Charlotte.
The lights may be on by today, said Paul Ringenberger, chief executive officer. But the water connection "is becoming one of those little glitches you have to deal with in these situations," he added. It seems that the clinic's contractor was given an long-outdated map that didn't reflect the fact that the nearest tap was now buried under pavement.
The pharmacy is vacating leased offices at 1282 Market Circle, Port Charlotte. Although its dispensary will be co-located with the clinic, the administrative offices will now move to 24730 Sandhill Blvd., Unit 903, Port Charlotte. The telephone number will remain 941-766-9570.
After the water is connected at the modular building, it will be time to call the county for a certificate of occupancy, Ringenberger said. A state health inspector will also need to issue a permit. The clinic and pharmacy will then immediately open to serve Charlotte County's needy and uninsured.
For now, the pharmacy is closed for relocation. Volunteers worked through the weekend shifting furniture and inventory, Ringenberger said.
Clients had been advised to refill their prescriptions in anticipation of the move. "We tried to call as many people as we could ... and if a real emergency came up while we are moving, we could probably arrange some kind of a voucher for medications," Ringenberger said. The pharmacy had seven years of successful operations before the idea of expanding into a full-service clinic was floated early this year. Following a May public meeting, donations and volunteer commitments poured in, which allowed the clinic to break ground in November.
So, which "M word" would that be?
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
An SUV collides with another car and the driver is seriously hurt. A sheriff’s deputy is beaten by a man at a traffic stop and then dragged when his arm is caught in the door of the departing truck. A semi-trailer crashes into a power pole, blacking out busy U.S. 17's traffic lights.
The editor continues her year-end recap with “news of the weird:” The health clinic gives drive-through flu shots, a star high school student is arrested for felony mischief, an extortionist victimizes a family, a young man who shot himself with a high-powered bow and arrow remains tragically impaired, and finally, her quirkiest weird of all: skeleton remains and fetal remains became objects of (separate) investigations.
The lesson for local editors is a real journalist doesn't go into the story searching for preconceived ideas of what the elements ought to add up to. This abomination almost certainly emerged when the family shareholders-on-high issued a memo: "Write a wrap up, and keep it light! Let readers see the quirky side of your beat."
Sure, reporters and editors have a macabre sense of humor and a tender spot in their hearts for the off beat; it goes with the territory. But what evokes a newsroom giggle and a copydesk head scratch about the nature of humanity is likely to fall flat on main street -- and in the main sheet.
What would have worked, in OWW's humble opinion, is spiking the memo and looking thoughtfully at the clip file. The wise reporter would ask what these tidbits actually add up to. What do the facts -- not management -- say? And, the wise reporter knows it's not a lame attempt to discredit a tired cliche ("nothing ever happens here"), which management's vision has forced on this story.
And finally, the lesson in one line: the columnist's expressly described "happier note" turns out to be the 2007 discovery of a rare, smalltooth sawfish -- with its saw-like snout cut off. One last time: News, even quirky news, is not what management says, but what the facts say. And if it's not quirky, don't force it. It makes you look as clueless as the bean counters.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Launching the newspaper’s New Year in community journalism, Sun Correspondent Jana Lynn Filip commits blatant plagiarism, employs cut-and-paste
That’s Old Word Wolf’s editorial. Here are the facts, starting with Filip’s plagiarism.
Scott Parker, Director of the Institute of Outdoor Drama, which is part of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, writes a nice overview of the place that outdoor drama holds in American culture. Professor Parker's essay is available on the Web. Just for fun, Old Word Wolf will alternate his paragraphs with those that appear under the by-line of Jana Lynn Filip.
--Professor Parker writes:The recent cultural explosion, with its increased public interest in heritage tourism and the awareness across the nation of the might of the tourist dollar, has caused an increasing number of communities to focus attention on developing an increased number of vital regional dramas in the form of outdoor historical plays.
--Sun Correspondent Filip copies: The recent cultural explosion, with its increased public interest in heritage tourism and the awareness across the nation of the might of the tourist dollar, has caused an increasing number of communities to focus attention on developing an increased number of regional dramas in the form of outdoor historical plays.
--Professor Parker writes: Across the nation more than 100 outdoor theatres are in production this summer: 45 produce outdoor historical dramas, 65 are Shakespeare festivals, and 11 theatres produce religious dramas. Five of these are new outdoor dramas in such places as New Mexico, Oregon, California and Utah.
--Sun Correspondent Filip copies: Across the nation, more than 100 outdoor theaters are currently in production: 45 produce outdoor historical dramas, 65 are Shakespeare festivals and 11 theaters produce religious dramas. Five of these are new outdoor dramas in such places as New Mexico, Oregon, California and Utah.
--Professor Parker writes: The outdoor dramas, which employ thousands of college and professional performers each season, have been pioneers in non-profit theatrical arts development. Most have been produced by cooperative organizational efforts of local citizens, foundations, and government on a non-commercial basis. These dramas have been produced out of community desire to commemorate the past and rededicate the future through theatre.
--Sun Correspondent Filip copies: Outdoor dramas, which employ thousands of college and professional performers each season, have been pioneers in nonprofit theatrical arts development. Most have been produced by cooperative organizational efforts of local citizens, foundations and government on a non-commercial basis. The dramas have been produced out of community desire to commemorate the past and rededicate the future through theater.
--Professor Parker writes: As they reach for a tourist audience, which means survival and continued community support in areas where their plays could not otherwise exist on a long time basis, the outdoor drama workers know that their real success is not monetary. It rests with their ability to emotionally touch the audiences. They must do so to such a degree that the outdoor experience in theatre has meaning -- understanding, clarity -- what you will. If there is no empathy, there will be no audience next year.
--Sun Correspondent Filip copies: As a reach [sic] for a tourist audience, which means survival and continued community support in areas where plays could not otherwise exist on a long-term basis, the outdoor drama workers know that they real success is not monetary. It rests with their ability to emotionally touch the audiences.
--Professor Parker writes: These audiences are Americans extroverted enough to send men to the moon, and the plays written for them had better meet them on their own ground.
--Sun Correspondent Filip copies: These audiences are Americans extroverted enough to send men to the moon, and the plays written for them had better meet them on their own ground.
The tone and sentence style of Filip’s piece change abruptly, as she begins copying from Wikipedia’s entry filed under “Drama.” (Professional copy editors would notice the style change immediately and go on the alert. Spell-check software and Quark page designers are not, in OWW's opinion, capable of this task.)
--The Wikipedians write: Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. It is derived from a Greek word meaning “action.”
--And Filip copies: Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. It is derived from a Greek work [sic] meaning “action.”
--The Wikipedians write: Dramas are performed in various media: theater, radio, film, and television. Drama is often combined with music and dance.
--And Filip copies: Dramas are performed in various media: theater, radio, film, and television. Drama is often combined with music and dance.
--The Wikipedians write: The usual purpose of drama is entertainment. However drama can also be used as an educational activity or for therapeutic purposes. [...] It has a unique ability to allow us to allow us to play. This is what makes drama a useful way of teaching, learning, and growing as a person. Drama has a holistic way of teaching people. [...] participants learn through interactions with others. Every interaction with another character or situation gives a greater understanding of what is happening around us.
--And Filip copies: The usual purpose of drama is entertainment; however drama can also be used as an educational activity or for therapeutic purposes. It has a unique ability to allow us to allow us to play. This is what makes drama a useful way of teaching, learning and growing as a person. Drama has a holistic way of teaching people. Participants learn through interactions with others. Every interaction with another character or situation gives a greater understanding of what is happening around us.
--The Wikipedians write: If you look at a small child when they are playing, they are enthralled with their own world, and through their actions and thoughts and they way they play they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. [...] When people grow up, the idea of play becomes less important and entering into the imagination becomes more difficult. However this is where drama has the unique and undeniable ability to help others learn and grow as individuals, as it allows them to play.
--And Filip copies: If you look at a small child when they are playing, they are enthralled with their own world, and through their actions and thoughts and they way they play they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. When people grow up, the idea of play becomes less important and entering into the imagination becomes more difficult. However this is where drama has the unique and undeniable ability to help others learn and grow as individuals, as it allows them to play.
--The Wikipedians write: In the theater, drama is a living, breathing art form.
--And Filip copies: In the theater, drama is a living, breathing art form.
About half way through the article, Filip abruptly changes the writing style and tone as she reaches for a local angle in the ninth paragraph. Someone is trying to build an outdoor ampitheater in Lake Placid and would like government money to help in the project.
Unfortunately, Filip hopelessly snarls the storyline. She introduces a “consulting manager” with a “strong vision” to set up a 1999 (yes, nine years ago) legislative request, which in turn moves the reader into a mish-mash of funding figures. Filip summarizes the project’s current state – scraped dirt roadbeds and a dug well – and then tacks on an unnamed someone’s hope to mount a dramatic production on the site next November. The consulting manager is once again invoked for her own level of drama – she has a big announcement but Filip coyly reports she is unable to “divulge the content.”
Correspondent Filip then again changes the style, tone and story line, rounding up canned phrases from Rep. Tim Mahoney’s Web site. She uncritically inserts the 16th District’s Democratic congressman's self-serving phrases about bridging agriculture and the environment and restoring the Everglades. Why? Because, readers finally learn, Mahoney himself plans to visit the future ampitheater’s site “in an effort to help obtain federal funding.” At last, the news, buried in the 18th paragraph. Well, sort of. Filip’s story says the pol’s appearance will be Sunday and the large photo’s cutline next to the story says his visit will be Friday.
Back to OWW's editorial: Journalism, reporting and editing require skill, professionalism and smarts. Publishing a community bulletin board and penny advertiser don't. The Lake Placid ampitheater story is a great story, one that has the potential to engage the community and surrounding towns. A local home for Florida heritage drama is a truly exiciting idea and one worthy of of some
Our Town’s Page One Banner Story this morning is Laura Schmid’s weather report. Editor Schmid tells readers local temperatures are poised to descend to remarkable lows for these parts. All fine and good, but the the reporter fails to report that most important of journalism’s W’s: why. Will area temperatures plunge to 28 degrees because of global warming, a cold front, tropical bands gone bad or the sudden release of frozen nitrogen from Boca Grande fish coolers? It’s a small point, but journalism does have standards. Except at the DeSoto Sun.
Tuesday weather update: The cold front has not arrived and no one has died. Yet Charlotte Sun Editors, crystal-ball gazers one and all, have hit the Web to predict deaths: “Countdown underway to deadly deep freeze”