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Archive for the ‘Writing and Journalism’ Category

72-plus point fonts. Really?

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How big exactly would CNN.com and HuffingtonPost.com have their fonts if we had a national tragedy on the scale of 9/11? Here are the front pages from these two sites today:

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And journalists wonder why the public has this animus toward the national media. I mean, 12 dead is a big deal; no one disputes that, but where is the limit? Do online news editors use some kind of strange calculus to correlate body counts to the appropriate font size, as if to say, “We only had one death today, guys. Let’s just go with 20 points.” Some national news outfits have sacrificed news gathering for sensationalism and deploy strategies such as these to simply grab website hits and visits rather than informing. By comparison, see the more respectable presentations from CBS and NBC:

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Punctilious punctuation 2

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Example 1:

Credit: Peter Arkle/The New York Times

Several members of the 7th, including Abolt, said this story is not only important in American history, but also a story that must be passed on.

A comma is used to separate two independent clauses (clauses containing a subject and verb). The last part of the sentence would only be a complete sentence if it read: “history, but it also is a story that must be passed on.”

Example 2:

Meadows expressed his thanks to the hundreds of people involved in the project, and said a burden had been lifted off his shoulders as a result of the home, which has three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a wrap-around deck.

For this to be a complete (in italics), the clause should have read “project, and he said a burden had been lifted …”

Example 3:

The CEO duties will be assumed by John R. Ingram, chairman of the division of Nashville-based conglomerate Ingram Industries Inc. that provides books, music and media content to more than 35,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners.

This is an example, along with the comma splice issue, that Yagoda mentioned specifically. Here, a comma is required after “Inc.” because a comma was used before “chairman.” An argument could be made that the word “that” continues the phrase through until the end of the sentence, but introducing Ingram as the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. still requires a comma in the middle of the sentence to set off the attribution. Or, to avoid the problem altogether, the paragraph could read:

The CEO duties will be assumed by John R. Ingram, chairman of the division of Nashville-based conglomerate Ingram Industries Inc. The company provides books, music and media content to more than 35,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners.

Writers (and readers, I guess) apparently don’t have the attention span to follow the sentence throughout its entire construction, so they sometimes forget where previously placed commas occurred. This is easy to track in your head as you reread or edit a story, but problems such as this crop up time and time again. And for people who care about the language, it’s a distraction. As a colleague has often said, “Journalists are the keepers of the language.” That’s not to suggest that I won’t have typos myself, but the will for perfection is there. This is apparently not the case with many who haphazardly throw in or leave out commas seemingly at random.

By the way, I’m a big fan of banning commas before the word “because” in almost every case, except in cases where a comma could avoid confusion or misreading. Why is that? Nearly all sentences with “because” in the middle are essential clauses, thus taking no comma. Sentence that begin with “because” do take commas.

Call me a punctuation Nazi all you like.

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Written by Jeremy

May 26th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Punctilious punctuation

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I loved this piece from Ben Yagoda about common comma errors. I don’t know what they are doing in journalism school, but they sure aren’t teaching punctuation. Apparently, they aren’t teaching it in high school or college in general. I find comma errors in various online and print newspaper articles all the time. The epidemic is so widespread that I bet I can go read any random article from The Tennessean (Nashville’s finest) and quickly identify an error.

I will now go read a random story and report back shortly.

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Written by Jeremy

May 26th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

FOX News criticism of Media Matters

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I’m sorry to subject you to this, but this was a stunning quote from someone whose only claim to fame is that he hosts a show on FOX News in the wee hours of the morning when about three people are watching. Why are only three people watching? Because the various retirees, the businessmen, the stock brokers are in their jammies tucked away and dreaming with sugar plumb fairies dancing and thinking about how they might screw the system the next morning.

If you didn’t know, “Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld” – the host is seen in this video – airs at 3 a.m. ET. 3-freaking-a.m. If you thought FOX News was purporting fringe right theories at noon weekdays, you should stay up late (or go to bed really early) and check out the good stuff!

Here is Gutfeld’s takeaway line:

I will actually buy pills to keep a leftist from reproducing.

Really? This is even more reprehensible because the context was on birth control. So he admits that he’s sleazier than the people he is criticizing. Well played … I guess.

Take a look:

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Written by Jeremy

May 15th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Clinton as new NBC journalist?

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Not that Clinton. Or that one.

Yup. Chelsea. And journalists why the public mistrusts the media, and why journalists themselves are disillusioned about the business. Two commentators in this video rightly called this move “cynical.”

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Written by Jeremy

November 20th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Blogathon anyone?

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Maybe one day I too will summon the mental and physical dexterity to pull this off. Basically, Jen McCreight at Blag Hag is currently in the middle of a 24-hour blogathon that began at 7 a.m. PST today and runs through 7 a.m. PST July 24. From what I understand, this is her third year doing the event, which raises money for the Secular Student Alliance. One post every 30 minutes for 24 hours. Shew. Gives me carpal tunnel syndrome just thinking about it.

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Written by Jeremy

July 23rd, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Conservative talk makes NPR look like C-SPAN

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I don’t buy recent pronouncements from certain conservatives who say that NPR has a leftist bent. Most recently, the right-wing talking heads pointed to comments made by the network’s fund-raising executive Ronald Schiller, who said in what he believed to be a private lunch, that the Tea Party had “hijacked” the GOP and that Tea Party proponents were “seriously, racist, racist people.”

He’s definitely right on the first count, and partially right on the second. But, of course, those were his personal feelings rather than his feelings as the top fund-raiser at NPR. Had he been at work, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest that he would have made such statements.

Regardless, this is another blight on the station for the few of us who still care about the continued existence of journalism that is both critical of our leaders and fair. Of course, it’s natural for some to feel that, perhaps, NPR leans left since it spends so much time on stories about culture, life and art. Wade through the wasteland that is conservative talk radio for one day, and while you will hear Paul McCartney’s “Freedom” played almost continuously, what you won’t find are stories about foreign films or folk music or drama. What you will hear, after “Freedom” fades to silence, is a relentless barrage of personal attacks against the president and other Democrats in power. The attacks coming from folks like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others.

Here’s a compilation of comments put together by Media Matters from conservative thinkers and media critics about NPR, and here is an analysis, albeit, slightly dated (2004), from fair.org.

A snippet:

That NPR harbors a liberal bias is an article of faith among many conservatives. Spanning from the early ’70s, when President Richard Nixon demanded that “all funds for public broadcasting be cut” (9/23/71), through House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s similar threats in the mid-’90s, the notion that NPR leans left still endures.

News of the April launch of Air America, a new liberal talk radio network, revived the old complaint, with several conservative pundits declaring that such a thing already existed. “I have three letters for you, NPR . . . . I mean, there is liberal radio,” remarked conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan on NBC’s Chris Matthews Show(4/4/04). A few days earlier (4/1/04), conservative columnist Cal Thomas told Nightline, “The liberals have many outlets,” naming NPR prominently among them.

Nor is this belief confined to the right: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer (3/31/04) seemed to repeat it as a given while questioning a liberal guest: “What about this notion that the conservatives make a fair point that there already is a liberal radio network out there, namely National Public Radio?”

Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources—including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants—Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent).

A friend of mine from another paper once implied that it was intellectually dishonest to deny that NPR did not bend to the left. But I retort that NPR’s alleged bias is far from self-evident, so much so that I can’t find it. And I listen as often as I can. The station may appear artsy and stuffy or, dare I say, elitist at times. I will admit that. But politically biased? I simply can’t find the proof. If anyone can find concrete examples, I will gladly post them on this site.

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Written by Jeremy

March 12th, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Top posts of 2010

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I plan to jump back on this site after I get the holidays are behind us. I’ve recently been entrenched with the aforementioned “War and Peace,” and now, I’m reading a book titled, “Nixon’s Piano,” in which Kenneth O’Reilly traces the track record of each United States president on the topic of race and how few presidents moved race relations and civil rights forward. Rather, the large majority either did all they could to ignore the problem, thus passing the buck to successors or used blacks and other minorities to secure the Southern vote. Of course, numerous early presidents from Washington to Adams to Jefferson knew the peculiar institution was unsustainable in the long run but again, deferred to later generations to actually enact meaningful change. Reluctantly, Lincoln was the man that conclusively ended slavery, but what he couldn’t end was racism, and blacks and other groups would wait another century-plus before Martin Luther King Jr., and other members of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement finally broke the chains of segregation and Jim Crow.

It’s an enticing read, and I would like to read O’Reilly’s other book on race, “Racial Matters: The FBIs Secret File on Black America” in the future.

Needless to say, I typically either spend the bulk of my free time writing and researching for this site or reading and/or playing video games like the 33-year-old teenager that I am.

That said, and in the spirit of annual, year-ending “Best of …” lists, here are 20 of what I consider to be my top blog posts for 2010. In no particular order:

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More on FOX, the GOP

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First, let’s get something out of the way. The man is the 117th richest person on the planet. Does anyone really think Rupert Murdoch gives a hoot about what goes on at FOX News? Sure, he’s leans, quite V8-ish, toward the right. Sure, the top guy at FOX is none other than Roger Ailes, whose own V8-ness precedes him. Does anyone think Murdoch, who most likely has Stewie’s stuffed bear named after him in the often sardonic and very non-conservative FOX Family Guy cartoon and who owns the longest running American sitcom, The Simpsons, cares about anything other than heading up successful (Read: lucrative) projects, whatever they may be? If MSNBC were as successful as FOX News currently is, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to guess that Murdoch might consider eyeing that network as well, with or without Ailes’ support.

That not withstanding, regarding this business about News Corp donating $1M to the GOP, took an unsurprising twist today when some sources have reported that Ailes, indeed, was possibly behind the decision to grant the gift:

Just say a little bird told me … the money doesn’t come from Rupert.

… the central advocate for giving the dough has been none other than Fox Chief Roger Ailes. In the past, Ailes has been stymied or neutralized in his quest to have the company put its corporate money where its mouth is, because the No. 2 in the company until last summer, Peter Chernin, was a Democrat.

With Chernin gone, and with Fox News outperforming most other parts of the company, Ailes is the central voice. What’s more, Chernin’s sidekick, corporate PR-guy Gary Ginsberg, who could be counted on to use the threat of bad press to keep Murdoch from giving in to Ailes’ none-too-politic schemes and demands, is also gone—purged, in part, by Ailes.

It’s one of the major inter-office issues at News Corp.: how to keep Roger from bullying Rupert. ((http://www.newser.com/off-the-grid/post/527/whos-really-giving-away-rupert-murdochs-money.html))

Of course, I would be hard-pressed to say how credible that “little bird” is but still, if it’s true, it’s fairly unexceptional.

The following excerpt from The Washington Post sheds more light on the marriage between FOX News and the GOP, and I agree on the point about FOX hereafter needing to add a disclaimer:

Fox News, the home of such hosts as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, has long been at odds with the Democratic Party. During the 2008 campaign, Murdoch and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes held a secret meeting with candidate Barack Obama in an effort to clear the air. “I wanted him to understand that we’re a real journalism organization and we’re going to cover what’s there. We’re not out to get him,” Ailes said in a subsequent interview.

But the relationship blew up last year. The White House refused for months to make top officials available for interviews and assailed Fox as an arm of the Republican Party — an attack that was revived Tuesday.

“Any pretense that may have existed about the ties between Fox News and the Republican Party has been ripped violently away,” said Hari Sevugan, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “Any Republican that appears on Fox should now have a disclaimer that they are financially supported by the network and any coverage of the elections this fall on Fox should be reported with disclaimer for what it is — partisan propaganda.” ((http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/17/AR2010081704338_2.html))

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Written by Jeremy

August 19th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Language, racism, Schlessinger, ctd.

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I probably never would have thought that I would be writing about radio host Laura Schlessinger twice in a mere five days, but here goes.

She has come under recent scrutiny for saying the word “nigger,” with the “I” fully in place more than 10 times while talking about the use of the word with a black caller on her show. The two were having conversation, at times, a heated one, on the use of the word “nigger” in black culture and how “nigga” is quite different than “nigger.” ((http://emptysuit.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/dr-laura-schlesingers-nigger-rant-transcript/)) ((http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/will-dr-laura-survive-her-racial-rant/19592675))

Nigger originated from the word, “niger,” and most likely evolved to “nigger” because of Southern slave owners’ mispronunciation of the correct word. “Niger” simple meant black person, but in the 17th century, as the slave trade got under way, it quickly came to mean slave, as there weren’t too many nigers in the colonies that weren’t also slaves. ((http://www.abolishthenword.com/history.htm))

I, for one, think all of this might be just splitting hairs a bit. Rappers and black youths freely say “nigga” in conversation and in songs without thinking twice about it, and the full enunciation of the other version isn’t banished in white nor black comedy or from neither cultures. From the comedy side, see skits from Dave Chappelle (black) and Louis C.K. (white) (The Louis C.K. skit contains mature content). Actually, C.K. said he was more offended by white people saying “the N-word” more than the actual word because “that’s just white people getting away with saying ‘nigger’” and “when you say the N-word, you put the word nigger in the listeners head. That’s what saying a word is.”

The connotation behind the word “nigger” is terrible, slavery was an awful blight on the history of not just this country, but human history, and the sooner racism ceases to exist the better. But doesn’t it say something about how far we’ve come since the dark days of the slave trade that a white person can objectively say that word without a hint of any racist connotation and not get branded a racist (Surely, some blacks folks were in attendance for the above-linked C.K. show). Further, and this applies to supposed “curse words” as well, when did words begin to hold such mastery over us. Didn’t we create language and isn’t language at our service, not the other way around? That’s not to say that folks shouldn’t be sensitive to those connotations because, as Chappelle said prior to the above-linked, all kinds of feelings come up when black people hear that word. But a person like Schlessinger or C.K. or myself uttering the word in, what I think is akin to honest debate about language, and not in any racial context, seems unexceptionable.

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Written by Jeremy

August 15th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

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