Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sales Manager Isn't a Journalist

Asking a newspaper sales manager to write news is a little like asking a reporter to drum up ads and subscriptions. The two jobs just aren't the same, even though attention to detail -- and proofreading -- might be a common denominator. Ordered to write a "business column," Charlotte Sun sales manager Steve Akers this morning manages to call one event by two different titles and botches the name of one of the newspaper's largest advertisers. We won't even go into the sales manager's grammar and punctuation -- high-school standards are clearly too much to expect, even during FCAT week.

The truly amazing bit of sloppy writing comes from the "real" business columnist, Bob Fliss, who is busy dashing around Tallahassee as the legislature enters its spring session. He tells all the folks back home:

"As I was walking down the hill, I dimly recalled a quote by political satirist P.J. O'Rourke. Something about bombs and guns being more fun than social programs. Well, if O'Rourke didn't write it, it's something he would have written."

Would have written, would have if what, Bob? If a famous writer doesn't have a topical, timely quote ready for the busy journalist when he needs one, let's just pretend the famous writer would have done better, if only he had known.

The passage's significant word is "dimly."

And one more headline lesson ...
The rule is a headline must have something to do with the story. Old Word Wolf read this story twice and, just to be sure, a third and fourth time. There is no "death-defying stunt" mentioned anywhere, and contrary to what the kids on the copy desk are telling readers, plenty of numbers pepper the story. The best explanation is the headline goes to another story. Why bother writing a new headline when one is lying around, ready to fit? It would be so much more professional to tell us what the story is about instead of what it isn't about -- oh, and harder.

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