Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not one, not two, not three ...

This unsigned note was slipped into the comments folder late last night.: "Kind of have the kids over a barrel -- all of us need jobs right now. And a paycheck is better than the alternative. "

OWW's anonymous reader seems to be saying that sloppy spelling, absentee editing, failure to read, lousy make up and irrelevant art (we won't mention actual grammar lest we risk a charge of Third Reich tendencies) are reasonable standards because a paycheck is better than the alternative.

The cynicism saddens. The logic eludes.

If I were working for Sun Coast Media Group for the paycheck (hmm, who there isn't?), I'd make darn sure that I wouldn't be replaced by someone who could spell, read, edit and operate a proportion wheel. I'd make sure I knew how to select and play local-interest stories instead of pouring half a dozen 60-inch opuses off Bloomberg News wire and calling it a night.

I wouldn't send headlines that call spring holiday hats "Eastern Bonnets." I wouldn't promise that letters to the editor will be edited for grammar and spelling on the same page that routinely runs sentences along the lines of "their are to many ferrel cats in my neighborhood," or hit the send-and-print key with misspelled dateline cities. I wouldn't let six-column heds go with errors that even spell-checker can catch while the any-paycheck-is-better-than-none folks pull an ATC (air traffic controller)

And, yes, today there is more below the fold: a four-column headline that rolled off the presses, bound for 30,000 homes, news stands and schools at about the same time Anonymous was composing her best defense.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Morning Makeup

No naked men were Tasered Saturday except in the imagination of the Charlotte Sun 's weekend make-up artists.

An intoxicated man stripped down to his boxers .... "... attempted to pull his underwear off but could not ... "

The kids who replaced the real copy editors still can't figure it out: "Page make-up" is not the same as "make things up."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stop Playing With The Thingy

The Charlotte Sun's page makeup kids recently found that little WordArt thingy on their computer's font-formatting bar. They have been giving all front page local lead headlines this month the WordArt thingy treatment: see-through, 3-D, drop-shadowed glow floaters. We're not crazy that the newspaper looks like a seventh-grade PowerPoint presentation, but we'll get used to it.

Now, the cutline -- this is another problem. The story about tourists returning to once-oil soaked beaches is ripe with photo-journalism opportunities. The cutlines could sing. So what do the WordArt maestros send to the printer? "In a March 23 photo, Pensacola Beach is seen."

Today's lesson is to stop playing with your thingy. Stop with the WordArt button and read the story to see if your two-month-old aerial of condo row and an empty road and an empty beach tells the story of tourists flocking to Pensacola. If after massaging the display type you find no time to write your own stuff, at least check to see if the wire-service cutline (assuming you didn't actually write it) that you are about to pour actually makes sense.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Website Plus Byline Equals Weekly Column

Journalism can be really easy if you know a couple of insiders' tricks. Mat Delaney, long-time practitioner over at the Lake Placid Journal, has a tried and true recipe:
1. Take one news release posted on the web.
2. Cut and paste it into a newsroom word processor.
3. Add byline.
4. Click "send."
5. Collect paycheck.
Journalism is so easy ...

... if you don't mind wearing the plagiarist's hat.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pulling an Air Traffic Controller: Sleeping on the Job

March 26, 2010: U.S. Attorney William Hochul goes to a news conference in Buffalo, N.Y. Someone at the Associated Press snaps a picture, including his handsome reflection in a shiny-topped table.

May 8, 2011: A year later and 2,000 miles down the road, the Charlotte Sun's copy desk kids decide Hochul and his reflected image are the perfect illustration for a story about the dangers of unprotected wireless.

Is Hochul mentioned or quoted in the story? No.

Was the 2010 news conference Hochul attended about wi-fi privacy? Doesn't say.

We used to call the newsroom process of locating illustrative, informative photography "pulling art." This seems more like "pulling an air-traffic controller" -- sleeping on the job.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Brett Slattery's Slippery Slope: We're Turning into Them

"There are states that track your speed on toll roads. You enter the toll road at point A. You arrive 60 miles later at Point B. The speed limit is 60 mph. So it will take you one legal hour to get to point B. If you arrive sooner, you get a ticket on your calculated speed." -- Brett Slattery.

"We have yet to find any verified accounts of municipalities (in any state) automatically issuing traffic citations based on transit times recorded by electronic toll collection systems." Snopes

We know who Snopes is, but who is Brett Slattery?

He's a real estate agent. He's also Sun Coast Media Group's occasional columnist. This morning, Slattery steps out of his field of expertise to offer an opinion. To be fair, he's not an actual journalist or a reporter so expectations of objectivity or sourcing can be put aside. And, after all, it's the Charlotte Sun headline that get the ball rolling: "Red light cameras -- what's next?"

The lame "what's next" is designed to inflame, not inform. Most readers will recognize from the outset that the copy desk kids left their professionalism in their lockers back at page-designing school. But it's Slattery's 7th graf that delivers the Kool-Aid.

At first, he attempts imitating a reporter by appearing to attribute his fourth or fifth assertion: "Newspapers have reported ..." It's three paragraphs down, by which time readers who had been giggling since the end of the first graf are now emitting small guffaws at the delicious irony. Folks like Slattery -- we're grouping him with various types who see conspiracy everywhere and threats from government around the corner -- routinely accuse newspapers of being unreliable. So it's choice for an old reporter to see in black and white this sudden reliance on what he reads in "newspapers." The fact that Slattery grossly mischaracterizes what "newspapers" have reported is another post for another day. Let's just say an objective and balanced report would not serve his purpose. Which we're coming to.

Broker Slattery's purpose is to stir his brew of logical and journalistic failures and mix with an unctuous dose of xenophobic, ethnic, and near-racial slurs and stereotypes in order to lubricate his slippery slope fantasy. Old Word Wolf fans will locate most of the poison quite easily for themselves. We'll just close by promising a Silver Bark Bark Award to anyone who locates one actual fact in Slattery's ink that might qualify as well-informed opinion.

Brett Slattery's world view regarding highway safety improvement: "Our government gets richer ... camera makers get really rich companies see a big boost in premiums ..."

Regarding preventing planes from being used as weapons of mass destruction: "... If Homeland Security can authorize scraggly strangers to grope your wife and kids, then gaining access to cell phone data is a piece of cake."

Regarding proximate causes: "China is light years ahead of us on this. So are most Middle Eastern countries. ... with red-light cameras now popping up in our own country, we have demonstrated a willingness to be a little more like them."