Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dr. Seuss's Message for Grads

Derek Dunn-Rankin, top guy at the local press, told readers last Sunday there would always be a place for a well-edited newspaper. Unfortunately, that place isn’t his DeSoto Sun.

Today’s two-page photo feature of DeSoto High School’s Friday graduation and the after-party activities forgo editing entirely. One page shows photos taken at the high school gym (“Project Graduation,” designed to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble during their celebration), and the other page shows snaps from Turner Agri-Civic Center, the local auditorium and site of the cap-and-gown ceremony.

The editor had all weekend and all day Monday (no Monday publication in this one-daily town) to design, lay out, write and proofread. Readers can judge the quality of the layout at a glance, but it takes some time to figure out that the very last picture on the page shows the grads preparing to enter the opening processional. ... they who are last shall be ....?

Reading the cutlines (captions) takes a bit of intestinal fortitude. Three page-10 cutlines refer to "Friday." Six cutlines identify "the Turner Center" using two different names interchangeably. Two cutlines describe moving morterboard tassels as a sign of graduation. One young woman is described as graduating with an “associate degree” and hoping to go on for a “master’s degree.” (I’m barking at the omitted apostrophe, the omitted bachelor’s step and the omitted name of the A.A. granting institution.)

Over on the party page, cutlines repeat, repeat, repeat "where" and "why" in much the same fashion. The finished product reads as if 21 people organized 21 photographs with no idea that they'd be packaged together.

But maybe all this is in unintended homage to Dr. Seuss, who provided the theme for the evening. (Remember, 80 percent of DeSoto High 10th graders who took this year’s FCAT can’t read at grade level.)

The feature story, which starts on the local front and jumps, refers to a gym "bedecked with artistry." The writer reports parents saying "goodbye," and fleshes out the story by quoting nearly half of a lengthly Dr. Seuss poem, "Oh, the Places You'll Go," instead of reporting on the news. The free-lancer claims to be a humor writer -- but an editor, not so much. The writer's Web page includes obvious typos ("I'm way to conceited for my own good"), strange grammar ("My publicist says this is the page I am supposed to tell you all about me and how great I am. The fact I even have a publicist is scary."), and her computer-services Internet site is riddled with random Germanic capitalizations, irregular spellings, missing apostrophes, and badly punctuated sentences ("...which I do to bug people, primarly my editor," tossed hopefully in.)

That's OK, a humorist admits the need an editor. Paper President Dunn-Rankin as much as promised one -- after all, that's what newspaper editors do, right? Unfortunately, both he and the staff of editors in Arcadia -- assembling the biggest story of this little town this season -- all failed to deliver.

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