Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hed: Happy Days are Here Again. Story: Fooled Ya

Apologies for going over old material, again, but the Sun's copy desk hasn't gotten the message yet: a hed is supposed to tell a bit about the story, like what it actually says. No making stuff up allowed.

And when a copy editor has two decks to work with, well, he/she can tell a whole lot about the story. Or, make it up twice, as happened during the Charlotte Sun's editing session last night.

Subscribers were delighted to turn to page 5 this morning and read the news: Stock surge, investors feeling comfort! Hallelujah! Oh, my dear! Oh, my 401(k)! We are delivered!

But, hold on one minute. Plunging into the story, readers can't help but realize they must be awaking from the copy editor's hallucination dream. No, stet that: hallucination.

The lede: "Investors shuttled between optimism and pessimism ..." No feeling of comfort here.

Next graf: The federal economic recovery plan "sent stocks moderately higher in a partial rebound from a plunge" the day before. No surge there.

Next: Stocks "meandered" for much of the day. No comfort. No surge.

Next, a real-person quote: "I think everybody is trying to get through all this news," the expert says. "Everybody has to digest all the tidbits of information. Everybody is looking for clarity, good, bad or indifferent." Hmmm. No surge mentioned, no word of comfort uttered.

Next: "Stocks had plummeted Tuesday ... on Wednesday the uncertainly continued." No comfort. No surge.

Next: "The Dow's 51-point rise is 'not a strong statement'" another expert opines. No surge. No comfort.

I know it gets old, but let's have the copy editors practice this until they get it right: The hed has to reflect what's actually in the story. No making it up up.

Running fantasy news is not going to return advertisers to the fold or make readers rush to sign up for year-long subscriptions. Fantasy news just makes editors and publishers look silly, unreliable, careless, clueless ...


  1. You're soooo mean, Old Word Wolf. They spelled everything right and you didn't even mention that!

  2. The Ghost of Journalism PresentThu Feb 12, 01:01:00 PM

    I-75 is right, OWW. They speeeled everything write.

    Hey I-75 reader and OWW. You may be interested in this. One day a page in an edition almost ran upside down.
    The "copy editor" had NO experience. She was a car salesperson who was hired as a writer and copy editor.
    A real copy editor caught it before the EPS was sent to prepress.

  3. Is it me, or is this the only mention of the stimulus package passing in the paper. I can't imagine whey they can't get advertisers....

  4. You're absolutely right. If DeSoto Sun readers are relying on their daily for news that the largest planned economic strategy in history had passed a House vote, then they don't know it yet. Our front page feature here is the story of dog who chases bird away from the airport 40 miles south of here. Glad we know that, even if the teaser is assembled with a comma splice. Jeez.

  5. I haven't read this paper in a long time. Do they ever print corrections? I don't remember seeing any but I noticed a lot of misspelled names (everyone from residents to public officials) and factual errors that were not.