Friday, January 16, 2009

Accuracy and Trust: Journalism's Horse and Carriage

DeSoto Sun newspaper editors tell readers that local is important -- but evidently not important enough to write about or edit. Both key jobs of journalism have been left to -- well, sorry -- left to amateurs. And it shows.

Over at the Lake Placid Journal, second verse, same as first.

An epic recap of a state trooper's murder is marred from the first line, which opens with, "Two years have past ...." Come on, guys. Eighth graders know that should be "passed."

Next line: "For 17 gruelling hours the usual tranquil community ..." Ninth graders know that should be should be "the usually tranquil community .. ."

Next leg: "While undergoing emergency surgery at the rural community hospital, his wife and two children..." A copy editor would quietly change that to "While the officer was undergoing surgery...," avoiding the misdirected medical procedure.

Next leg: "Officers staged across the highway.." A copy editor would gently inquire, "staged what?" because "staged" is a transitive verb.

Next leg: "... taxed with the responsiblity ... " A wise copy editor would silently change that laugh line to "tasked with the responsibility ..."

The rest of the narrative-style recap -- intended to be a tribute -- is riddled with randomly Germanic capitalizations, illogical tense shifts, a profound ignorance of basic comma rules, awkward echos and redundancies, and a failure to attribute a single fact -- which is what journalism is all about. The story is not a tribute. It's a mess.

If the newspaper publisher genuinely cared about local news, he would assign someone the job of editing to save himself and his writers the embarrassment of childish writing. That, in turn, might salvage a shred of trust: If the newspaper's writers don't know how to write coherent sentences and editors don't know how to edit them, why should readers trust the paper's ability to report? Or its "commitment to local news?"


  1. OWW is feeling very generous in using "amateurs" to describe these people.
    I agree that if they cannot write at an eighth-grade level, how do they expect us to trust their reporting skills.
    The attempt to save their newspapers should have started years ago by hiring quality reporters and writers to make their newspapers a "necessary" part of people's lives. I worked for a small daily in New England and most days you would hear someone in the public say, "hey did you see that story in... or did you see that picture in..." Just can't teach some people that good journalism is good business.

  2. It is sad and it starts at the top. If the owners aren't willing to hire quality people or support the few good people they have, there is no hope. I remember a David Dunn-Rankin column that blamed all of the papers' errors on the AP. He tried to convince readers that the AP wouldn't allow its copy to be edited, which isn't true at all. Definitely no trust when readers are outright lied to.

  3. not to mention the largest flub on the page - "reign in"!

  4. unless you meant that one to go without saying. if so, oops!