John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to email@example.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Friday, May 15, 2009
You get what you pay for
“The theme engine, through automation, grabbed a photo it thought was relevant, and attached it to the story,” Solomon said, acknowledging that the photo had gone up without a person seeing it. “There was no editorial decision to run it. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we pulled it down.”
“The theme engine,” some kind of robotic search-and-attach mechanism, operating without human oversight. Perhaps the other sense of oversight is apt here.
And over at That’s the Press, Baby, David Sullivan takes on Steve Yelvington’s quaint belief that copy editors can safely be dispensed with because, because, because reporters will write better. They’ll just have to. And the lion will beat the sword into a plowshare, and the lamb a spear into a pruning hook, everybody’ll get together, try to love one another, and Wikipedia entries will be trustworthy.
Getting things right is not easy, and publication, either in print or electronically, involves managing a multitude of details, any of which can go badly wrong. Making prose clear is not easy, either, and the most effective way to accomplish that is for writers to work with editors. You can take shortcuts, but the results will be less accurate and less clear, and sometimes downright embarrassing.
This is not sour grapes because I was turned out of the paragraph factory a couple of weeks ago. I’m a reader — a customer, if you will — and I want better stuff.
Follow-up: Yesterday I wrote about sloppy science reporting. Click over to Headsup for a couple of examples of corrupt science reporting.