Monday, May 24, 2004

Quote Policies

I can't believe people have problems with this. Some do.

1.) We do not clean up quotes. "I ain't going to the store" should not become "I'm not going to the store, old chap."

2.) We do not creatively render dialectical phrases. Thus, we write "got to" for what sounds like "gotta" and "going to" for "gonna." We do not penalize people for being mushy-mouthed.

3.) We render sentences in the best grammar we know.

4.) If a quote isn't clear on its own, paraphrase it. Don't add parenthetical expressions. Never publish a sentence such as: "I enjoy it [going to the park] very much," he said.

5.) We don't make people look stupid for no reason. "I think our current president, Bill Clinton, shouldn't have invaded Iraq," she said.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

News Is News Is News

As journalists, we're predisposed to overthink. The reporters wonder what the source didn't say. The copy editors wonder what the writers really meant. We ponder and analyze, cogitate and mull, until someone above us waves the deadline flag.

But sometimes, news is news. For reporters, this means that every story doesn't demand an in-depth narrative approach. Sometimes, we just want to know what happened. It's not hard. Tell us. Let it be. (To quote one of those Beatle fellows.)

For copy editors, this means that every headline and caption doesn't need to be a masterpiece. All art heads needn't contain vibrant word play. Sometimes, just telling the reader what's going on is enough.

We beat ourselves up over the "art" of newspapering when 99 percent of newspapering isn't art. It's news. It's communication.

Let's do that first.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Five Print Media Myths

1.) We're objective.

I don't think anyone can be objective. We are all the products of our surroundings and personal beliefs. Too much news becomes mushy in pursuit of "objectivity." We should, instead, strive for fairness. That is, we acknowledge that we all have different views and try to reflect that in an equitable manner.

2.) News doesn't have an entertainment purpose.

Yeah, we like to feel better than the reality TV folks. But we still put "brights" on front pages, still encourage columnists to be colorful, still look for that wacky wire story to fill the inside. Face it folks: we serve up entertainment sometimes.

3.) Readers care about the same things we do.

Newspapers spend tremendous time and effort on series of stories and projects that often bore folks to tears. Yes, we know the doll factory made defective dolls. Do we really need the 50th follow-up story about the factory, moving the story an eighth of an inch forward?

4.) That we're not obsolete.

With the Web, television and radio, newspapers no longer have a monopoly on anything. Pictures? TV does it better. Frothing-at-the-mouth commentary? Turn on Rush in the afternoon. In-depth articles and analysis? Check out some of the better blogs.

Newspapers will be around for years to come -- because of their place in the public consciousness and because no other organizations have similar news-gathering infrastructures yet. But that time will come, and we shouldn't delude ourselves.

5.) That Generation X/Y/Whatever doesn't care.

Younger people care about the world and news. Look at the people who flocked to Howard Dean's campaign. Consider the huge audience for the topical "Daily Show" on Comedy Central. The appetite is there.

Do newspapers address it? Nope. They either ignore the demographic entirely, publishing more and more aging-boomer items, or they condescend mightily. Red Streak anyone? Anyone?

Young people will read newspapers.

But newspapers have to give them a reason.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Quick and Generic Post on Blogging

No, I haven't given up this blog.

No, I'm not giving up copy editing.

Yes, I am still here and willing to be engaged in the world.

Why? Blogging is important. I'll be doing a presentation for my copy desk in a month or so that touches on blogs and why they're important. If you're reading this, you probably know why.

Blogs won't replace newspapers. They won't replace magazines. They are a new form, for a new time. They offer instant access to people's thoughts and emotions, and they provide an enormous platform for self expression.

Truthfully, I've been away from Copy Massage because I've been working to wrap up another blog. You see, at the beginning of this year I wrote three blogs -- one personal, one poetry and one this. The personal one wrapped at the end of February. The poetry one wrapped at the end of April.

Copy Massage remains, which is as it should be. A lot of people have stopped by here, and I hope my recent silence hasn't scared them off.

The point?

Blogs = tremendously important forum for writers of all ages and persuasions.
Me = dedicated to blogging.
This point = over now.