Monday, June 29, 2015

Today in BENGHAZI !!!!!!!!!!!

Skulduggery, jiggery-pokery, applesauce; the Fair 'n' Balanced Network is on the case!

New documents released by a federal court show President Obama called then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the night of the 2012 Benghazi attack -- but the contents are being withheld by the State Department.

It had previously been disclosed that Clinton and Obama spoke the night of the terror attacks.

Well, that takes some of the fun out of your exclusive.

But the documents offer additional information about the timing of the call -- after the initial attack on the U.S. consulate, but before the second wave where mortars hit the nearby CIA annex and killed former Navy SEALs Ty Woods and Glen Doherty. 

It's going to take a while, but eventually the importance of the timing becomes clear:

... Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement: "It is little wonder that Mrs. Clinton and the entire Obama administration have fought so hard to keep these documents from the American people -- they shine a spotlight on the administration's incompetence and indifference. All evidence now points to Hillary Clinton, with the approval of the White House, as being the source* the Internet video lie." 

In other words, it's time to bring out our favorite Fox lead story from -- could it be Sept. 12, 2012?

Here's the small type, should you be having trouble:

URGENT: Unconfirmed reports of US envoy, three others killed in attack on American embassy in Libya as Muslims angered by online film ridiculing prophet Muhammed launch violent and deadly protests in Libya and Egypt.

It's going to be a long campaign season if we have to bring this up every few weeks, you guys.

* The missing preposition is Fox's, not mine.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Style reminders

A few style reminders as the weekend draws to a close. We've been over some of these before, but just in case:

The term for a female doctor is "doctor"
The term for an adopted daughter is "daughter"
The term for a gay marriage is "marriage"


And one more thing:
The group on the left is the Supreme Court. The group on the right is the Supremes. Please take note of this distinction when writing headlines for a grownup audience.

These rules apply in my shop. You are, of course, free to write your own. If you don't like the advice, ask the boy at the front desk about our money-back guarantee.


Hullo, sweetie!

Did the Nation's Newspaper of Record simply not get the message about what happens when you cross your own timeline?

Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which Jesus tells farmers to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy.

Sunday's correction:

An article in some editions last Sunday about Ana Martinez de Luco, a Catholic nun who runs a can and bottle redemption center in Brooklyn, paraphrased incorrectly from a passage in Leviticus that she likes to cite. It is God, not Jesus, who tells farmers to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy.

It will be noted by Friends of the Loyal Order of the Passive Voice how much better the offending paragraph sounds now:

Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which farmers are told to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy.

The sourcing is pretty clear in the original, but I still like the way the object is fronted here.

Should the wise editor go after "biblical" as a Needless Word here -- on grounds that anyone who's gotten this far into a Times story about a nun already has a pretty good idea that Leviticus is somewhere in the Bible? Sure. But at least we can be grateful that the Times didn't call it a Gospel passage.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Antonin Scalia, writing coach

What's the lone bright sunbeam of the day over at The Daily Caller?

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution recognizes same-sex marriage, but Justice Antonin Scalia spun up a scorching dissenting opinion lambasting the court for its decision.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Scalia wrote.

Good to know we've got an editor on the case -- especially the since it's the editor who just this week single-handedly restored "jiggery-pokery" to its rightful place in the American vernacular. And the one who, in the same dissent, puts the apostrophe back in "o'erweening." And who, modestly reminding his audience that he went to Harvard, isn't interested in how they do things over at Cornell:

I join the Chief Justice's dissent in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court's threat to American democracy. ("Do not overstate. When you overstate, readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgment or your poise.")

Huh? ... What say? ("Do not affect a breezy manner. ... 'Spontaneous me,' sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius. The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day.")

But that risks getting ahead of the hippie joke, which really hit the style button at TDC:

He went on, his style* some of the most inflammatory we’ve seen from the court.

“‘The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.’ (Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

Uh ... groovy. But for some reason, The Daily Caller omits the following line:

Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.

Two things. One, "The Honeymooners" was not a documentary. Two, from the vantage point of a "long-lasting marriage": Ur doin it wrong.

* OK, one more quote from the masters:

"He's supposed to have a particularly high-class style: 'Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole' ... would that be it?"

"Yes," said the Managing Editor. "That must be good style."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's history, not ... wait, what?

This error is particularly amusing when it's top of the page for the foamy-mouthed party press, normally given over to great glee when libruls demonstrate their ignerance of history and gunz and things like that.

Getting the Confederate battle flag confused with the Stars and Bars (that's you, The Washington Times, and you, Fair 'n' Balanced Network) is actually kind of a Secret Handshake thing. Like spelling the plural "ya'll," it marks you as, um, somewhat less than the real thing -- someone who isn't really paying attention. Meaning that when you say "It's HURRITAGE, not hate," the rest of us can be forgiven for thinking: Clearly not heritage, so that narrows things down a little.

There is a contender for Genuinely Deranged Articulation of the Existential Threat to All We Hold Dear, but first, we need to actually commend the Charlotte Observer for running a "Stars and Bars" headline with a picture of -- the Stars and Bars! Nice job, you lot.

Anyway, you'll want to enjoy Todd Starnes's column about the looming apocalypse* for yourself. Here's a taste:

A full-fledged cultural cleansing of the Southern States is under way - and the latest victim is the General Lee.

Warner Brothers announced they will remove the Confederate Flag from atop one of the most famous cars in television history. They will also ban any Dukes of Hazzard merchandise that once sported the Confederate flag.

I have some very, very bad news for Todd. "The Dukes of Hazzard" is not actually an artifact of Southern culture. Nor, for that matter, is "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Lester and Earl, on the other hand, are the real thing.)

Things get much sillier from there, and the week is young.

* Wednesday's version; the original seems to have been scrubbed.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

They all look alike

Q: Do all blues singers look alike at the Nation's Newspaper of Record?
A: Looks that way:
An obituary on Friday about the jazz saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman referred incorrectly to the blues singer Clarence Samuels, with whom Mr. Coleman worked early in his career. He was not blind.

Q: No, I don't mean "do they all see alike?" I'm wondering if all musicians look alike!
A: Apparently:
Because of an editing error, a jazz entry in the Listings pages on Friday about Eric Revis, at the Jazz Gallery in Manhattan, referred incorrectly to the pianist in Mr. Revis’s trio. The pianist, Kris Davis, is a woman.

I'm fine with "because of an editing error" in this case; someone knows the trio and its work well enough to refer to "the fearlessly introspective pianist Kris Davis," and that person shouldn't have to explain the Times's gender biases to an annoyed musician. Given that "the pianist Kris Davis" is also listed elsewhere in town later in the week, a wake-up call is probably useful -- but I'd like to know it's been sounded behind the writer who thought every blues singer's first name is "Blind," too.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Don't bogart that national security exclusive

Bear in mind, this isn't just any old exclusive: It's moved up to the No. 2 spot at this writing, and it's competing with another Lois Lerner tale, the latest on Rodham Hood's anti-media campaign, and the tasteful shark follow-up hedded "Bit his whole arm off." So let's have a look at how many layers of qualification there might be between the headline and -- oh, let's call it the "evidence":
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was apparently “high” with a small group of Afghan soldiers when they were picked up by nomads in 2009, according to a former CIA operative who was running a network of informants on the ground.
Good so far?
... "The call came in and what it said was they had just broken out the message that an American soldier along with two or three Afghan soldiers had been captured or taken by a group of nomads," Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge told Fox News, speaking for the first time publicly about the incident.
Well, never let your mom throw out your baseball cards. The Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge? Speaking publicly for the first time about the incident?
He added that the call said, “they were using the Pashto ‘diwana,’ which in this case meant high on hashish."
Read more »

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Monday, June 15, 2015

You make the call!

OK, "that" fans: What does the photo in question show?

The shortest distance, for me, between two points is that the photo must show him blocked in a car. That doesn't seem to be what the (ahem) viral photo had in mind:

The Ohio State coach, who apparently doesn't drive a golf cart, appears to have found every parking spot open except his own. He could have just accepted the mistake and left his car one spot over, but you don't become a reserved parking spot owner by making concessions.
Embedded image permalinkI could have gotten to that with "photo shows THAT Ohio State football coach blocked in car ...", or even by taking out the random "in,"  to wit: "... blocked car that parked in his spot." Except that, looking in the photo, that's hardly what happened. We seem to have a photo posted by one football player (that may or may not be about another football player) showing what an awesome guy the coach is, as long as the second player doesn't mind bumping over a curb that really shouldn't give him pause, as long as the SUV isn't borrowed from a well-heeled supporter or something.
Yes, it's a bit dismaying that the Brave New Social Media manage to make the same sort of syntactic hash out of a few simple clauses that the boring old media did. On the other hand, it's actually a little refreshing to note that, as of this writing, the local newspaper seems to have ignored the matter altogether.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm not asking you who's on second

Q. Is it third base line or third baseline? For example: Our seats were on the third base line. – from Des Moines, Iowa on Thu, Jun 11, 2015
A. It's baseline in the "baseball" entry, so make it third baseline.

It may be "baseline" in the baseball entry, but it's "third-base line" in real life for the same reason a businessman who runs a small business is a "small-business man" (I'm looking at the 1986 edition under "s"). The compound can't do its magic if it isn't a compound. You're not even being inconsistent -- this is what compounds do to reduce ambiguity. (A book written for schoolchildren in the primary grades is written for ...)

If your seats are behind the third-base dugout (not the third basedugout), you're along the baseline that goes from home to third, which is the first baseline if you're going left to right but the second baseline if you're counting right to left. So who decided to go with "third baseline"? I don't know.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Biff! Oof! Thwack!

What does it take to make the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage? See if you can draw some conclusions from the headlines:

Ex-chief blasts Iran talks

One reason the two main flavors of agenda-setting (mass media and policy studies) often seem to be talking past each other is that neither one is set up to consistently look for the effects that the other thinks are most important. If you see a lot of Iran stories but no corresponding rise in the public salience of Iran, it's tempting to conclude that media salience doesn't affect public opinion -- unless the public has decided to channel all its Iranianoia into "terrorism" or "our place in the world" or some other broad-brush category.

Similarly, nothing here is going to raise the salience of climate change or Marco Rubio's finances. But we do have a remarkable proportion of stories about Striking Back at The Enemy, which assumes an ongoing condition in which The Enemy is up to no good. Apparently the cool kids are calling it the "outrage industry."

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Monday, June 08, 2015

Got me so blind I can't see

If you liked the noun pile on the homepage, you'll love the story itself:
A woman has gone on trial in France for allegedly operating a scam in which thousands of Chileans paid millions of euros to produce a supposedly "magic cheese" for the cosmetics industry.

... Buyers were lured with the promise of huge returns when their "cheese" was sold on for use in beauty products.

The €14.5m (£10.6m; $16.14m) scam is one of the largest in Chilean history.

More about the "Madoff of magic cheese" here.

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

'Too nice a regard for civil laws'

If you're interested in how securitizing arguments play out in modern or interactive media, you find yourself eventually circling back to how they might have looked in the grand old days of existential crisis and top-down media. So rather than clicking through to whatever sponsored content is being served along with the day's heirloom paranoia at WND, let's take a ride down memory lane with the World's Greatest Newspaper, November 1949:

The defense department has plans for a military dictatorship if war should come with a devastating atomic attack on the national capital.

One of the nation's outstanding military leaders told The Tribune that the military will take over under disaster plans if civil government is blasted.

In theory, the military would take over the government until the emergency passed and civilian government could be reëstablished.*

Theory's fine, Outstanding Military Leader, but what would happen in practice?

The military leader acknowledged that the military might be loathe to surrender control in the event of war because the military can run war efficiently and economically if it is not hampered by too nice a regard for civil laws.
Read more »

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln ...

... how did you enjoy the big-league play?

Not all ambiguity is equal, and some "gets shot" heds are more equal than others. But if you want to make the most of your shot at the big leagues, find one of the quick work-arounds on this one: if "gets a shot" won't fit, how about "gets chance in big leagues"?


Monday, June 01, 2015

Hey, it's only the front page

When you're in a hurry and you're trying to cram more stuff than will fit into a relative clause that's supposed to make sense of your story, stuff happens. But two subject-verb blunders in the first two paragraphs -- that ought to be a sign unto you. Not necessarily that writers don't know any rules, but that someone learned the rules wrong and nobody's stepping in to help:

The deaths of two Detroit children who were taken out of public school to be homeschooled and later found in a freezer in March has sparked debate over whether more state oversight of homeschooled students is needed to prevent tragedies.

You answer the "who did what to whom?" question by isolating the smallest moving parts of a clause -- in this case, "deaths spark debate." The story might have started its life by talking about the case (singular) rather than the deaths (plural) and just never caught up with itself. That's a good argument for asking someone to take a deep breath, relax, and at least read the ledes before committing them to print.

Michigan is one of only 11 states that does not require homeschooling parents to register with the state or have any contact with officials. But legislation introduced recently could impact the way homeschooling operates in Michigan.

The next one's going to be on the final again. What is Michigan? One of only 11 states. Which 11 states is it only one of? The 11 states that do not require any contact. As soon as professionals stop getting it wrong, we'll stop testing students for it. Fair enough?

While we're here: I wouldn't make "homeschool" one word, but it's your stylebook; my advice is worth every cent you pay for it. If you must, though, please pay some attention to hyphenation. Don't let the computer make it "ho-meschooling" (p. 1) or "homes-chool" (p. 5).

On the Stuff Editors Used To Remember front, one that someone has apparently fixed in the online edition:

U.S. Army soldier William Woodrow Anderson was in his early 20s when he walked into a church amid the rubble of war-torn eastern Germany during World War II and grabbed a piece of fine satin.

Somebody should have raised that point before the print edition closed: Jena's in the east, but East Germany was a few years away yet. And while we're there, could we ask if the church is called "Kollegienkirchen" or just "Kollegienkirche"?

That's a lot of attention for the two feature stories in the middle of the page, but at least it's a way of not talking about the lead story:
Visit Detroit's Eastern Market district any Saturday morning and you'll likely see a line of people waiting to eat breakfast at the popular Russell Street Deli, which not long ago celebrated its 25th year in business.

Yes, the day's most important story boils down to this nut graf:

At a time when Detroit celebrates the entrepreneurial culture with splashy contests like Comerica Hatch Detroit, which awards $50,000 to a winning start-up idea, stories of long-term business survival paint a real-life picture of pain and perseverance.

Good thing the common cold is cured and the Fractious Near East at peace, huh?

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