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/.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday farrago


Before I head off to Memorial Episcopal to help erect the set for Annie – you are planning to see the show, aren’t you? – I am assembling some odds and ends to amuse and instruct. (Farrago, “a confused mixture,” comes from a Latin word meaning “mixed fodder.”)

Item: If you were both instructed and amused by yesterday’s post linking to John McWhorter’s analysis of Sarah Palin’s speech patterns, you should have a look at Mark Liberman’s follow-up on Ms. Palin’s distal demonstratives at Language Log.

Item: The estimable and apparently indefatigable Professor Liberman also tackled Louann Brizendine’s The Male Brain and painstakingly examined sources identified in the endnotes. What he discovered, and demonstrates, is that citation after citation refers to a study that not only does not support the author’s assertions, but has at best the most tenuous relationship to her subject.

His conclusion: “… Dr. Brizendine's new book is more of the same sort of ‘psychoneuroindoctrinology’ found in her first book, in which the pages and pages of endnotes and references are a sort of Potemkin Village of scientific pretense laid out in support of banal gender stereotypes.”  

Item: The War on Editing claims another set of casualties as Media General “consolidates” (read: “eliminates staff while homogenizing content”) copy editing and page design at the Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Winston-Salem Journal.

The typical robotic justification has been offered:

“Our consolidated editing and design operations allow our newsrooms to focus on strong local news reporting. Stories will be edited once rather than multiple times, and we can take advantage of economies of scale and centralization of top talent,” said Donna Reed, Media General’s Vice President of Content. “Our customers will be unaffected by this internal process change and all news decisions will continue to be made by our local editors,” said Ms. Reed.

I will not be taking any bets on the customers’ satisfaction.

Item: Gene Roberts of the University of Maryland, formerly of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times, co-author of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, coincidentally talked yesterday about the effects for the public of these economies of scale and centralizations. “It is past time for America to become alarmed about its shrinking news coverage, but it is showing few signs of concern,” he said. A fuller account is at Poynter.org.

Item: And finally, an endorsement. I regularly encounter in my editing class at Loyola University Maryland students who immediately grasp what is essential in the craft of editing. One of the most promising in the thirty semesters I have taught was Elizabeth Morrison. She would have been a magnificent editor, had there been any future in editing. But, after military service and marriage, she has settled with her husband in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made a career as a photographer.

 Any of you in Charlotte or environs who might be in the market for photography would do well to have a look at her Web site, Elizabeth Morrison Photography. It’s also on Facebook.  




4 comments:

  1. I read Prof. Liberman's post about Brizentine's book and came away with the impression that the book's thesis relied heavily on a study showing that rats reacted strongly to the smell of cat. It wasn't clear to me whether that was only male rats, though.

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  2. Liberman adds interesting fuel to the commentary on Sarah Palin's speech patterns. I suspect that the comments found on his page which point out a belief that she is searching for a "folksy" vernacular are foundational. It has occurred to me a number of times that she was working pretty hard to maintain that clenched teeth speech pattern. I am intrigued by the comment that her previous speeches (prior to McCain) lacked that pattern. Worth researching. It's hard to leave my bias in the other room when I talk about her. She's not my cup of tea. (I'm from New England so I can say that.)

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  3. Didn't Donna Reed used to have a variety show?

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  4. The mysteries of internet advertising are dark and deep for me, but there must be a lesson in this post. You reference Palin's linguistic limitations and Amazon has, automatically I presume, offered copies of "Going Rogue" on the side rail along with others that appear sympathetic to her cause.

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