I know that I probably sound like a clichéd broken record, but I cannot, not, not emphasize how news organizations can not give enough attention to copy editing. Obviously it's a big deal to me, but seeing your comments in my other post, it only solidifies the point: copy errors take away from the story! On a recent trip to CNN.com, I was intrigued by a story about a mass murdering in Long Beach, Cali. Often, the web editors at CNN will find news on other sites and post links which go directly to those stories. In this particular case, CNN linked to a local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The story told about the discovery of bodies at make-shift homeless camp. The story goes on to chronicle the polices' story. At one point, it states that the one informant may, "know more about the murders then they let on."
Now I think that any person who paid even the slightest of attention during school would know that thEn refers to a sequence of time and that thAn is a grammatical tool and often serves as a conjunction. Okay. Okay. Yes, this mistake is often made. And obviously no, not everyone is going to use it correctly every time. But should it be tolerated in news print? Not in the least bit! I just cannot grasp the concept that these stories pass right by native English speakers day-in and day-out and go to the public looking like this. Honestly! You don't need to have been an English or journalism major in school to apply these rules; they're universally understood! It's like the too, to, and two rules, or even their, there, and they're. Lately, I've seen a lot of people my age posting "are" for "our" on Facebook or MySpace and even in text messages. I just....don't understand. Is it ignorance or just plain stupidity? It's just frustrating when I'm trying to concentrate on the message at hand, and I can't get past the fact that this person just got that word wrong! Ah! And while I'm on one of my favorite media pet peeves, I may as well mention a new one.
Recently, print news has started a trend that not only strikes me as lazy, but unnecessary. As I most often see on Ajc.com, hard-hitting, investigative stories which require a number of interviews have, at some point in the story, this line: “The AJC attempted to contact so-and-so and has not yet received a call back.” Or as stated on CNN.com: “CNN is attempting to gain access to the remaining portion of the tape.” Well you better be! You’re the journalists here! To me, this should be understood. Like we know you're probably trying to get information to make a good story. I’m sure the conversation between writer and editor was much like this:
“Where’s your story?”
“Uh oh I’m waiting to hear back from Officer Dolittle. Excuse. Excuse. Excuse. I called him like an hour ago.”
“Well we need the story now.”
“I’ll go check my voicemail.”
“No, just say he hasn’t gotten back to you.”
All I want is for these journalists to be putting in timely calls and proper media requests. If that person hasn’t gotten back to you and he/she is a reliable source, then do not print your story. If you don’t have all sides, you’re not reporting fairly! “So and so has not called us back yet,” is not sufficient! I, as a reader, do not care who hasn’t gotten back to you or why or how long ago or whatever else the dog did to your homework. I want to know that you’re doing your job, getting all of the sides, and reporting it properly. That’s what smart journalism is, man. And if it’s been too long and you’ve put in your FOI request, then you’ve got an even bigger story. I just don’t think that simply saying that someone hasn’t gotten back to you is fair reporting. I mean…I don’t know the conditions. What if you gave group A three days to comment, group B two days to comment and group C two hours, and your story goes on in two hours? Just as the listener/reader, I do not know those details. And even when someone like Adam Murphy goes on air and talks about Karen Handal and how she won’t get back to him about voting lines and says “Well we tried….” I’m starring back at him saying, “Well…trying isn’t good enough. Now go do your job.”
As a former editor, I understand that there is a time crunch. But the only time I let this go into The Sentinel was when a statistic or other data was not complete or available on the day we went to press. Take, for example, a charity event. If we wanted to report how much money they had raised, and the organization had not yet finished counting, we would simply print “At press time, the organization had raised $4,000.” Or something like that.
Das ist alles.
- Break out your red pin, Eddy!