Friday, October 28, 2011

Every Editor's Nightmare Typo

The promo drops the "l" from "public," and the day's top headline fails to detect subject and verb disagreement -- all on page one of yesterday's Arcadian.

Copy editors are a newspaper's best friend. Copy editors know the difference between "then" and "than. " They know the difference between "on" and "about."  They know the difference between "request" and "require."

And then, there's the kids' crash blossom on the heels of a genuine post hoc propeter hoc fallacy in the main sheet:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Significant Omissions

"State adds 23,300 jobs."

No, it doesn't. 
But not one single editor at the Charlotte Sun thought that plump, round number looked a bit fishy.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Florida probably added about 23,300 non-agricultural jobs in September. But readers are unlikely to know these points of accuracy unless a reporter actually does his job.  
Here’s how the reporter doesn't do his job: 
  • Doesn't say the report is passing along an estimate.
  • Doesn't say the estimate comes from sampling  surveys – not from tax receipts, not from counts of vacancies filled, not from tallies of names added to payrolls. 
Here’s what the reporter does do:
  • Omits the fact that the federal labor department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics altered its sampling sizes between two of the periods compared.
  • Omits the fact that the feds have been sending the states the estimates since March with a specific caveat:   “New estimation procedures may result in more month-to-month variability in the estimates, particularly in smaller SMAs.”
Sure, we’re all hungry for good news, particularly in the jobs arena.
But in real journalism, fantasy, spin and lies by omission are never good news.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who the Heck is Chris Adams?

The new bylines at Feeling Silly Fit have taken to launching stories with irrelevant quotes from "experts"  they didn’t interview. This week’s example of silly quoting is a weight-loss related snippet attributed to someone named Chris Adams.
People say that losing weight is no walk in the park. When I hear that I think, yeah, that’s the problem.” -- Chris Adams.
The problem is New Byline fails to tell readers who the heck Chris Adams is or what his or her authority is for commenting on park walking as a weight-loss strategy. In an attempt to fill that editorial lacunae, Old Word Wolf located five very real possibilities from the Web and arranged a multiple choice test:
Chris Adams, Feeling Fit's “walk in the park” weight-loss expert, is:
(a) The “human factors engineer” who specializes in furniture design and writes for
(b) The dead British wrestler whose fitness program involved large doses of gin and human growth hormone.
(c) The Atlanta-based purchasing manager at “Thrive Weight Loss” who writes grammatically challenged news releases at (“How Do You Lose Weight Easily” without the question mark) and sells stuff.
(d) The Boise, Idaho-based fitness guru who promises customers they will be “completely revitalized” by his “unique approach” to weight loss (“No Gym Fees!!”).
(e) Something that New Byline found at and believed that if he made it the lede, readers couldn't help but read the rest of the story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sun Coast Math: 1,597 = 1,588

That didn't last long: ...
Yesterday, Sun editors announced a new A Section -- all local news. Today, the Saudi assassination attempt leads the local front.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Really Happened

This is a telephone conversation with the Charlotte Sun newspaper's e-subscription person:

CS: That will be $31.74.
OWW: No, that would be $29.94.
CS: Well, there's sales tax.
OWW: But Florida does not tax electronic subscriptions.
CS: Well, we feel we should collect sales tax on electronic subscriptions.
OWW: But the newspaper is not empowered to determine what is taxed.
CS: I know. But we feel we should collect it.

News From the Time Warp Edition ....

Christmas comes early. 
No it doesn't.

The festival commemorates 500 years of Florida history since the arrival of the Spanish  conquistadors.
The first conquistador in  Florida, Juan Ponce de Leon, arrived in the summer of 1513, so the celebration is about two years too soon.

"Feeling Fit's" cover last week said it was Sunday, October 3, 2011.

Silly Sunday: Wrong Organ. Wrong Expert. Wrong Name.

Kicking off an article about intestinal disease with a quote that likens a child to a stomach is bizarre. Selecting that quote from among words attributed to a silent-film era screen writer ("Fighting Buckaroo," 1926) is more bizarre. Rendering the quoted man's name as Frank A. Clark when it's Frank Howard Clark, is most bizarre.

And bizarrest of all, no editor noticed, even when the second graf announced: ...

And diverticulosis, which affects your stomach ... No, it doesn't.

As a general rule, this disease afflicts adults after 40 and is rare in children. So why mention children in the lede?

No editor bothered to check how much the new byline relies on Wikipedia's wording -- dutifully attributed not to the source but to the local doctor:

... the diagnosis of diverticulosis generally is made as an incidental finding during other investigations. A good patient history, he said [Wikipedia said], is often sufficient to form a diagnosis of diverticulosis or diverticulitis. If there is an onset of pain, cramps, bloating, changes in bowel movement, diarrhea, constipation and nonspecific chronic discomfort in the lower abdomen, it may be that the person suffers from inflammation and abscesses, [the local doctor] explained.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Layers of Integrity

Writing for publication requires integrity.  In ninth and tenth grade classrooms, the first layer of integrity is taught in a straightforward manner:  If you copy stuff, you have to say who you copied from.  In J-School, another layer of integrity is added: Identify news and information sources so readers can fairly evaluate the reporting.

In post-grad and professional schools, such as those attended by Licensed Clinical Social Workers, a couple more layers of integrity accrue: Professionals in positions of trust identify sources in order to demonstrate professional integrity with regard to their research and the work of their colleagues. When they're in position to dispense quasi-medical advice, they carry an additional, special burden of integrity.  Readers will, rightly or wrongly, tend to rely on the letters after their names as an indicator of their expertise -- and integrity.

Thus it's triply sad that Barbara Pierce, who claims to be a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker, once again, betrays her readers, editors and publishers by plagiarizing substantial parts of her reporting  in the regional newspaper. In today's edition of The Charlotte Sun's Sunday tab, "Feeling Fit," Pierce's by line appears at the top of an item about traumatic events.  In it, she writes: "When bad things happen, it can take awhile to get over the pain and feel safe again."

But Pierce didn't write it.  Including the grammar error that Pierce didn't fix, it's word for word from a webpage anchored with ads and sporting a thin river of "content" down the middle called "Healing Emotional and Psychological Trauma." Readers can see it live at  Help Guide Dot Org Website.

Pierce's article in the Charlotte Sun goes on:   "Upsetting emotions, frightening memories, being easily startled, a sense of constant danger that doesn't go away. Or you may feel numb, disconnected and unable to trust each other."  Compare her sentence with Help Guide:  "You may be struggling with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger that you just can't kick.  Or you may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people."  (It's not terribly important but for some reason, Pierce feels the need to change the websites' full-sentence copy into sentence fragments, editing acceptable 10th grade sentence structure to substandard English that wouldn't pass the state's FCAT exam.)

Pierce visits another another website over at Find Articles dot com * in order to plagiarize the nugget, "Some people are born with the ability to bounce back.  Experts promise that those of us who were not born with with ability can learn the skills to carry us through the tough times."  The same site also yields a quote from a Texas researcher.  Old World Wolf will wager a substantial amount that Pierce did not speak to that researcher herself but simply inserted a quote attributed to "Roberta Greene, Ph.D." without without having verified or actually spoken to the person. 

* Or Shape Fitness, an on-line magazine:


On a more cheerful note: A crash blossom worthy of  TCE's longest-ever thread filled in the lower right corner of Saturday's Charlotte Sun: