Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cute Goes Creepy

"There are those in our community who exemplify the true mean of the season."

"questionable..." "... creeping..," "invading..,"  "... living among us."

The Arcadian's effort at wit this morning comes off as a somewhat creepy, 50-word lead with no news in sight, proving the value of the J-school lesson:  Tell it straight. Don't go for cute, coy, funny, ironic, subtle. You probably won't pull it off. You're a journalist, not O. Henry. And the typo didn't help.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Raw Bits

Bit Nos. 1 and 2: The Missing Copy Editor. A small regional airline "plans to add 737 planes to its arsenal." The writer thinks the word for a building that houses explosives is a synonym for "fleet."

Bit No. 3: Wrong Picture. "...chatting it up" is British for "staring at the camera."

Bit No. 4:  Percent vs. Percentage Point. The Journal over in Lake Placid continues Sun Coast Media Group's willful disregard for numeracy.  Editors wrongly inform readers that the state graduation rate has increased 10 percent since 2006, when in fact it has increased 10 percentage points since that time. We'll explain (again).

In 2006, Florida's graduation rate (the state Department of Education says), was calculated as 70.3 percent of students counted.  This year it was calculated as 80.1 percent of students counted.  If the number had increased by 10 percent from a base of 70, the new figure would be about 77 (70 x 0.01 = 0.7). That's good news for high school students. For newspaper editors, not so much.

Bit No. 5: The lazy economic indicator. "... it is reported ..." Yes, it was reported. But the editorialist doesn't say it was reported three years ago in a study run by a civic group in Grand Rapids, Mich., based on its  2007 survey of 19 Grand Rapids businesses. And, there's that pesky percentage vs. percentage point error again. The study used its data to deduce that if $100 is spent at locally owned businesses, $64 hangs around town. That's not the same as 60 percent more than the paltry $43 that hangs around when $100 is spent with those evil out of towners.

Bit No. 6: Amateur Photoshopping: We intended  asking when "stately" became a synonym for "portly" but were distracted by Santa's helping hands: 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Editorial's "American Century" Reference Misses the Point

Yesterday's Charlotte Sun-Herald editorial, "Day of Infamy Followed by Greatest Resolve," praises veterans who responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  About halfway into the editorial, the writer calls Dec. 7, 1941  the "trigger"  that began the era called "The American Century."

No it didn't. The allusion is to "The American Century," Henry R. Luce's five-page editorial in Life m magazine that ran Feb. 17, 1941 -- ten months before Pearl Harbor.

Furthermore, if the editor were to actually read the article from which he takes his praise, he might recognize its profound naivete and thinly veiled jingoism.  Under a subheading worthy of Genesis, Luce describes "America's Vision of Our World ... How it shall be created." He identifies American "prestige" as the light emanating from Hollywood, jazz, slang and "patented products."  American artifacts are "the only things that every community in the world ... recognizes in common," Luce claims as if this is a good thing.

Luce's shaping thesis is the United States had entered a war (on the European front -- Pearl Harbor had not happened yet) that has the potential of bringing into focus an era of achievement.  "The American Century" is not Luce's reference specifically to war, but to "four propositions."  Luce's propositions are that the world is indivisible; the war has the potential to destroy humankind; the world can now produce "all the material needs of the entire human family;" and "the world of the 20th Century, if it is to come to life with any nobility of health and vigor, must be to a significant degree an American Century."

From that point, Luce goes on to lay out an American-centric view of the near future: America will deploy "engineers, scientists, doctors," as well as people he calls "movie men, makers of entertainment, developers of airlines."  He rounds out the list with teachers and educators.  His vision is that this American horde will be "eagerly welcomed" because they have "underake[n] to be the Good Samaritan of the entire world."  Luce proclaims "the manifest duty of this country to undertake to feed all the people of the world... a humanitarian army of Americans..."

The tenor and content of Luce's "The American Century" ring hollow. Sun editors have the benefit of having studied half century of history since. Surely they see the havoc we wreak every time we try to remake one part of the globe or another in our own image. Too bad no one at the Charlotte Sun took the time to check out the history and context of the infamous phrase.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rip Van Winkle Named Charlotte-Sun Political Cartoon Editor

The Charlotte Sun editorial page cartoon this morning shows Herman Cain thinking "It ain't over till it's over," as he keeps his campaign afloat.  Problem is, Cain announced four days ago that he had suspended his campaign -- and the Charlotte Sun ran that story three days ago, on Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, that was the day the same page editor ran a cartoon of a man on a bicycle, delivering an Omaha, Neb., newspaper with the headline  "Local Boy Keeps Newspaper Local."  If the only newspaper readers here in  southwest Florida see is the Charlotte Sun-Herald, then there is no way they could know that Warren Buffett announced plans on Nov. 30 to buy his hometown newspaper. The Sun-Herald didn't carry that story.

And, according to Sun editorial page editors, columnist Kathleen Parker seems to have found a new home in central Florida at a newspaper owned by the Chicago-based Tribune Cos., but likes to get her e-mail at the Washington Post.

Would someone please wake up Rip?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stoopid News

Tom Cappiello: "Pizza now satisfies the vegetable requirement for school lunches."

No, it doesn't.  Just because Fox News says it, doesn't make it so.

Cappiello's unattributed, unsourced declaration in one of the best-read, locally produced columns in Sun Coast Media Group's health-topics tab is a major disservice -- and embarrassingly  incorrect in every possible way.

The recently passed spending bill (H.R. 2112, mainly agricultural appropriations) which Cappiello does not identify, forbids the use of its funding to implement any revisions to the nation's two operative school-nutrition acts.

Specifically, the Childhood Nutrition Act of 1966 as amended (most recently in 2010), permits two tablespoons or more of tomato paste to "count toward" a vegetable serving.  The tomato paste lobby succeeded in getting H.R. 2112's "forbids" language inserted because there had been a move afoot to increase that requirement to a quarter-cup of tomato paste (about twice two tablespoons).

Any columnist worth the ink owes it to readers to verify his pronouncements and claims regarding legislation at

In fact, there is nothing "now" about the tomato-paste allowance; there is nothing about "pizza" in the legislation, and there is nothing in this news that had not already been launched and endorsed during Reagan's administration.

Cappiello owes his readers a correction.