Thursday, February 26, 2004

Readers Ask Pt. 2 ...

As for "marriage for gay and lesbian people," the preferred term of the NLGJA, I pretty much agree with Peter and Tom on its clunkiness.

That wording has solid thinking behind it, though. It's the reason "rights for gay and lesbian people" works better than "gay rights." Lesbian and gay folk don't want a special category of rights (insert your own lame joke here about what rights those would be). They want the same protections and status that other groups enjoy.

They don't want a special kind of marriage, they just want to marry. The institution doesn't change, but the people wanting to be part of it do. Perhaps the ultimate, most-accurate-possible phrase would be "marriage for same-sex couples."

I take the reajavascript:void(0)listic stance. I appreciate the NLGJA taking the time to work out these issues, but I have headlines to write. And their phrase (or my version) doesn't fit.

Readers Ask...

Peter, in a couple of comments below, has asked why "same-sex marriage" is my preference over "gay marriage" and astutely pointed out some problems with the NLGJA's wording. Prints the Chaff has weighed in too.

I admit, the difference between same-sex and gay marriage is small. I mean, everyone calls it gay marriage, right? I am bothered by several points though, which I list here.

1.) The basic problem of accuracy. I wrote about this earlier. Gay people can already get married, just not to people of the their own gender. This might seem pedantic, given that you can deconstruct "gay marriage" to mean "marriage for gay couples," or something like that. But the more I think about this point, the more I believe it's valid.

2.) "Gay" only stands for one side of the equation. The mainstream media doesn't always make this distinction, but in the LBGT community (that's lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered) gay refers almost exclusively to men. Given that lesbian couples are part of this controversy too, "gay marriage" strikes me as narrow.

3.) The legal questions of this debate do not specifically deal with sexual orientation. They exclusively focus on gender. That's why the constitutional amendment floating around the U.S. Congress right now doesn't use the words "gay" or "lesbian." It would block any marriage between persons of the same gender, regardless of their sexual orientation.

4.) Neutrality. "Same-sex marriage," while colorless, describes the issue in a simple and broad way.

All of this said, I don't necessarily think "gay marriage" should be banned from newspaper pages. It comes in handy at times, and we don't want to put ourselves in the position of eliminating easy-to-understand options.

"Same-sex marriage," as I said, remains my default for now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Terminology Update

The whole same-sex marriage issue has heated up to the point where few can address it without their faces turning red and steam spewing from their ears. But let's agree on a basic point:

"Gay marriage" is a stupid thing to call it. Gay people can get married now. Just not to other gay people of the same gender. Thus, "same-sex marriage" can be used as an alternative.

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association does not agree with either of the terms. (Full disclosure: I am a member, although I haven't sent in my dues for this year, so perhaps I'm not.) Their point:

"The terms 'gay marriage' and 'same-sex marriage' are inaccurate and misleading. The decision made by the Massachusetts court affects the state’s existing marriage law. The court has ordered the state to apply the existing law equally to gay and lesbian couples as early as May 2004. The accurate terminology on-air, in headlines and in body type should be 'marriage for gays and lesbians.' "

I understand the NLGJA's point. Their preferred alternative takes up a lot of space, though. Many media organizations seem to have settled on "same-sex marriage" as preferred terminology, with "gay marriage" being used for tight headline counts.

I have a lot more to write about on this topic in general. So keep watching.

My Row of Sticky Notes

I've attached several yellow sticky notes to my desk. They contain scribbled notations about entries meant for this very blog. I know you would love to read what is on them. OK, then. Here they are, reproduced as exactly as possible. Decipher them at your own risk:

quotes overall

2 types
of editing
1.) Readers
2.) ourselves


Gay marriage,
rights --

So now you know what's coming up. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Who Reads This Thing?

People who search using these terms:

massage icons
"Justin Timberlake" "Rolling Stone" review
copy editing and test and bremner
i was deleting my massage
massage quotes
want to make lot of $$$$ into massage industry
tampa massage pretty
why people copy designers
massage story
journalism +dash +usage +editing +aces
"why proofreading is important"

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Color Me Unimpressed

This CNN story serves as a useful example of my latest pet peeve.

Let's stop using Web message boards as sources in stories. The practice ranks right up there with using someone's Friendster profile in writing about them.

Real people saying real, on-the-record comments should always be preferred. Always.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It Doesn't Work That Way

TV and radio news does this all the time, and I can't stand it. Newspapers do it nearly as much. And the whole matter comes down to simple reading comprehension.

What am I blathering about?

"The accused killer." "The alleged rapist." "The accused terrorists."

None of these constructions should be used in a self-respecting newspaper. All of them use "accused" or "alleged" as a fig leaf -- but that fig leaf doesn't cover anything. If you use the phrase, you are calling someone a killer, rapist, or terrorist. The fig leaf words try desperately to make it seem otherwise, but you have already convicted the person or people involved.

Writers can fix the problem simply and easily. "The suspect, who is accused of killing." "The man alleged to have raped." "The men accused of terrorism." Sure, these constructions take up more space. But they allow for a crucial distinction by separating the people involved and the acts they are accused of committing.

Anchors on radio and TV news programs use the incorrect constructions all the time. I'm sure they defend the wording by saying "it sounds better." Well, it might sound better to say that the president transformed into a dragon and tried to eat the Democrats in Congress. It might sound better to say Martha Stewart was discovered to be an android from the distant future. It might sound better to say Elvis Presley writes this blog.

That doesn't make it true.

A Reminder

Although this site is titled Copy Massage, and although I am not straight, this is most definitely not a place to find information about gay massages. I'm sure other sites can help. Thank you.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Random Tip

For those of you who edit with pagination systems that display text in white-on-blue (or some other non-paper like fashion), try copying and pasting your headlines and other display type to a simple text document. Make sure the font on that text document is something easy to read, such as Times.

Read your work through. I'll bet you see something you didn't notice on the blue screen.

Changing such minor points as background color and font style can bring issues into focus. I'm not sure why it works, but it has helped me recently. When I'm working on a larger project, simply viewing all of that display type in a different context can help.

Just a thought.

Where Will You Be March 18-20?

I know where I'll be.

Yep, the most happening place in the continental United States should be in Houston. There, members of the American Copy Editors Society will hold their yearly conference.

I've made my reservations. If any of ya'll are going, let me know.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Regimen Change

Regime -- We use this word today about a government. The neo-conservatives speak of "regime change."

Regimen -- If you're on a regimen, you're on a set schedule, say of exercise or diet.

Now the problem: The words have a common ancestry. They once were nearly the same. Take a look at Merriam-Webster:

Regime -- 1 a : REGIMEN 1 b : a regular pattern of occurrence or action (as of seasonal rainfall) c : the characteristic behavior or orderly procedure of a natural phenomenon or process
2 a : mode of rule or management b : a form of government (a socialist regime) c : a government in power (predicted that the new regime would fall) d : a period of rule

and then Regimen -- 1 a : a systematic plan (as of diet, therapy, or medication) especially when designed to improve and maintain the health of a patient b : a regular course of action and especially of strenuous training (the daily regimen of a top ballet dancer)
3 : REGIME 1c

As you can see, the words started out meaning much the same thing. Regime then seems to have diverged, with its latest meanings almost exclusively related to its social studies aspect. Regimen has been consistent for a while, but has been used sparingly to mean regime.

Confused yet? I sure am.

The point is, if you want to be clear to most people, write about Saddam Hussein's regime, not his regimen. That is, unless you're dealing with his aerobics routine.

Monday, February 9, 2004

My Main Newsroom Issue

These days, it's my abandonment of caffeine.

I drink one caffeinated soda a day. That's it. In the newspaper business, that's asking for trouble. I'm pushing forward, however, happy not to be spending the money on fizzy drinks and feeling relatively jitter-free.

Yes, the world can be a harsh, cruel place.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Redundancy Patrol

I’ve railed against “future plans” already. I heard a horrid one on TV the other day: “past history.”

Again, I am forced to ask, “Is there any other kind of history?”

If the reporter was a fan of science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, perhaps she was thinking of his “Future History” series. I doubt that’s the case, however.

Such slips can be excused in speech. We tend restate our main points until our listeners agree or hit us with a blunt object.

Let’s keep them out of writing.

Friday, February 6, 2004

Stretching for a Story

And a headline. From CNN's site:

The Jackson stunt: What now?