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 jemcintyre@gmail.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/.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

A colleague in an unnamed state has just sent me an alarming bulletin:

"FYI: AP is running on the wire Sunday the annual nonstory on the cost for the 12 Days of Christmas."

If you have any influence at all at your publication, spike this story, which is — and I know how much territory this claim takes in — perhaps the dumbest single story the Associated Press ever runs. It is an annual exercise in banality. It is factually questionable and devoid of originality. It is worse than a weather story. It is worse than the presidential pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey. It is worse than a story quoting Miss America. It is a zombie story that refuses to die, and the person assigned to do this annual dirty task must have done something really, really dreadful in a previous life that you do not want to know about.

If you are monitoring the wire services, tell no one about it. If you are an assigning editor, shun it. If it has been scheduled and you are on the copy desk, take this appeal up to the Supreme Court (or find some way for the system to delete it beyond recovery — you should know how). Interpose yourself between this monstrosity and the reader, at all costs. You are the last line of defense.

10 comments:

  1. "must have done sometime really, really dreadful in a previous life..."
    Don't you mean "something"? Not to be nit-picky, but I thought you would appreciate it as a copy editor.

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  2. I am slow to publicly disagree with my former employer or John McIntyre. But the going rate for milkmaids ("I don't know! This is why we give you a new phone book every year.") is less of a nonstory than what appeared across the top of my local newspaper today. The first several paragraphs are devoted to acknowledging that although "Cyber Monday" indeed is a nonstory, there are reasons it might be appropriate to cover: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/11/29/CYBER_RETAIL.ART_ART_11-29-09_A1_O3FR3OU.html?sid=101

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  3. Six years ago (http://tinyurl.com/yen9gvu), it looked like everyone had gotten wise. But there's a new generation of "editors" out there.

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  4. Those aren't editors. Those are directors of community engagement and community coordinators. LOL!

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  5. I think the rate for milkmaids is quite variable. F'rinstance, it is 64.7% more in the People's Democratic Republic of Vermont than it is in Milkonsin.

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  6. Alas; the "Today" show just reported it.

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  7. Unfortunately, my local newspaper had the story on an inside page today. I didn't spend any time reading it, however: I'm still blissfully ignorant.

    Incidentally, my paper publishes only a 2-section paper on Monday and Tuesday...cost-savings, you know--then includes that sort of drivel. (Not to mention most of a column on the first sports page on the Tiger Woods non-story.)

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  8. "Twelve Days" is the A3 story in my Oakland Tribune. Sheesh.

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  9. Came in yesterday to discover we made this the A1 centerpiece on Monday. /facepalm.

    Does it count if I wasn't there that night?

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