Make it stop. Make it stop.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Lords a-leaping is the U.S. economy slow to recover!

The cost of 10 lords a-leaping increased 3 percent over last year, but nine of the other 12 gifts listed in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” stayed the same price as last year, according to the 32nd annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index released Monday.

The index is a whimsical way the Pittsburgh-based bank tracks inflation.

I don’t know what newspaper men and women did in their previous incarnation to deserve getting this every year, but it must have been really, really bad. AP, as usual, is too chicken to spike the handout.


Today’s ethical conundrum

Dear Ethicist Guy: Another plantation owner has found a way to sweat the serfs. Okay if I do a little perspiring, too?


I have been working as a freelance editor for more than 15 years. I have a steady group of local and regional clients, who keep me quite busy with work most of the time, and I make a decent hourly wage for this profession. This year, I began working for an online ‘‘crowdsourcing’’ enterprise that employs hundreds — maybe thousands — of people around the world. Here’s how it works: Once you pass the qualifying tests, you see tasks appear online, and you compete with everyone else to click on a particular task. If you click first, you get to perform the task. Each task pays between 1 cent and several dollars, depending on its complexity and the expertise it requires. I enjoy doing these tasks because they are short and quickly finished, and they offer a change of pace from my other work. Every morning, the company deposits the previous day’s earnings into my PayPal account. I do these tasks during my down time between projects, viewing the money I earn as a supplement. I’ll most likely use this money for holiday shopping.

But the work is irregular. Some days, no tasks appear, and I earn nothing or only a few cents; the most I’ve made in a day is about $50. When I read through this company’s worker forums, I note that for some workers, this is their only source of income, and they are trying to earn enough to pay rent or buy groceries or medicine for their children. So every time I successfully click on a task, especially on those days when the tasks are sparse, am I denying someone the chance to earn money? Is it unethical of me to compete with people for online tasks, knowing that others may need the money more desperately than I do?

(New York Times)



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Needs further reporting

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette comes this criminal history of a guy who was arrested Nov. 29 on a charge of killing a cop. That’s a lot of probation — even probation for violating probation. You have to do more than this.

Mr. Shetler’s history with the police dates back to 2004, court records show.

A decade ago, he pleaded guilty to engaging in a criminal conspiracy to commit simple assault stemming from an October 2004 incident when he was 20. Charges of terroristic threats and simple assault filed by St. Clair police were dismissed, and counts of engaging in fighting and harassment had been withdrawn. He served two years of probation.

A felony aggravated assault charge, as well as counts of simple assault and harassment, from September 2005 were dismissed by a magisterial judge two months later.

State police in Greensburg charged Mr. Shetler in April 2013 with simple assault and harassment. He was found guilty in a non-jury trial and was sentenced to a one-year probation in June 2014. In October of this year, he was found to be in violation of that probation and and he was re-sentenced to one year of probation, court records show.

In a fourth case, Mr. Shetler pleaded guilty in October to recklessly endangering another person and a summary count of criminal trespass from April 2014. He was sentenced to two years of probation in that case.


This and that

Someone writing at the Guardian about terrorism, and apparently about the problems of reasoning by analogy. (Hat tip: Horny Handed Subs of Toil.)


It’s not an insult to the dead to wonder why France, a $2tn economy, couldn’t make a better offer to its disenfranchised youth than a bunch of sick bullies grooming them on the internet. It’s not apologism to try to understand why something happened. When Syria’s drought kicked in, 25% of the population became unemployed. The vast majority of the country’s livestock has died over the past decade. A lot of Isis are farmers with nowhere to go, their entire industry destroyed – you’d think they’d have more sympathy for journalists. Those who think radicalising a youngster has nothing to do with climate – have you seen Tatooine?



Oy vey

Don’t you hate it when the teacher leaves the latch off the door and then the kindergartner escapes and writes up the police blotter?

For a few moments, the sight could have been confused for a miraculous arrival ahead of the Christmas season: A newborn baby, hours old and full term, appeared within a nativity scene at a Queens church on Monday.

But the story of how the baby got onto the stage inside the Holy Jesus Child Church in the Richmond Hill neighborhood was much more earthly, the police said: A woman, seen on video, had arrived with the boy wrapped in a towel, his umbilical cord still attached, and departed without him.

On Tuesday afternoon, detectives were seeking to speak with the woman, who was believed to be the child’s mother.

Late Monday morning, a custodian, Jose Moran, arranged the empty manger at the front of the church, facing the pews, the crèche still empty of all the animals and statues of the Christmas story. Then he went to lunch.

When he returned, around 1 p.m., he heard the cries of a baby and discovered the child, the police said.

(The New York Times)


Eek! Parentheses!

Q. In a press release should professional liability insurance be capitalized when used in this context: Protx Risk Management LLC, a managing general agency (“MGA”) that underwrites professional liability insurance for community banks – from Denver on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. No, it’s lowercase. Also, AP doesn’t follow a description with an abbreviation in parentheses because it’s jarring to readers.

(AP’s Ask the Editor)


ACES latest

The lineup for the 2016 ACES convention. Based upon no information whatsoever beyond what’s blurbed in the handout, we award the following prizes: 1. Most tantalizing blurb, “Poetry in Headlines … Description to come.” 2. Least tantalizing blurb, “Copyediting and Corpus Linguistics.” (Tied with “Interpreting Social Media Analytics.”) 3. Most potentially useful session, Bill Walsh on “Rookie Mistakes Even Veterans Make.” 4. Least potentially useful, “Checking Geographic Names.” (“Look it up” oddly absent.) 5. Most tantalizing potentially useless talk, “Turdmonger is Definitely a Closed Compound: Editing in Online Entertainment.” (Tied with “How to Get Your Dream Job on the Web,” in which someone from BuzzFeed will, yes, give you a list of ideas.) Note: Sometimes ACES thinks copy editor and copy editing are each two words, and sometimes it doesn’t.



You think it’s fun?

Everyone makes mistakes. We focus on the willful and preventable ones, for which editors are usually to blame.



Journey through the thesaurus

Gee, Los Angeles Times, how did you resist using “contretemps”?




Nothing to see here

At 5:15 p.m EST Saturday, Nov. 7, here are the Top Stories on Google News. Note that they are all old news:





Kamala Harris likes a cold soy latte

“I grew up going to a black Baptist Church and a Hindu temple,” Harris recalled as she sipped an iced soy latte at a Berkeley coffee house.

(From a Los Angeles Times profile of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate)

It might be appropriate to mention her drink if she knocked back a shot of Kentucky moonshine during the interview, but that’s about it.


Stoopid science, with baby-talk

Scientists might be a step – a teeny tiny step – closer to developing that Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak of your dreams. Researchers at UC Berkeley have created a thin metamaterial that can conform to irregularly shaped objects and render them invisible in certain wavelengths of light.

(Los Angeles Times)


I hate the first person

On Monday, Laura Bennett’s Slate piece on the boom of first-person essay writing sparked a fierce online debate between editors and writers: how can one best work between the vulnerability of a writer and the traffic goal of an editor?

What’s the line between publishing someone’s personal experience and exploitation?


Faint, if anything.

First-person essays have become the easiest way for editors to stake out some small corner of a news story and assert an on-the-ground primacy without paying for reporting.


As for Chenier, the original ending of her essay was: “What I want to say about all the women out there who have ever been victimized is you are beautiful and it’s not your fault.” Tolentino tweaked it in the edit to read, “To the victims of their abuse, I want to say what I have finally been able to understand myself: that my attraction, and what it led to, was not my fault.”


That’s no tweak, it’s a rewrite.


Jacks of all trades

Along with traditional reporters and editors, The Wall Street Journal’s nearly two-year-old audience engagement team fueled the outlet’s coverage of the slayings. The team simultaneously verified information, promoted Journal articles and social media posts on the killings, managed reader comments, and shuffled online feedback and analytics to their colleagues. (Columbia Journalism Review)

If you’re verifying information, you’re too busy to promote articles and social media posts, manage reader comments, and shuffle online “feedback” and “analytics” to colleagues. And, if you’re already doing all that stuff, you’re too busy to verify information.

“The audience team is just like your shoe-leather reporters,” says Carla Zanoni, head of emerging media and audience development, “in that they feel like this is what they’ve been training for.”

Whatever that means.


Nothing to see here

There are few must-watch events anymore in television news.

Atlanta-based CNN has one in Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate ….

(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

If you must, you can read about it in your newspaper or favorite news website.


Crisis on the General Desk

Migrants, refugees or both?



Editor! Stat!

It is your tenth birthday. You invite close friends to your party, plus a few other kids from your class—the popular ones, good to have on your side, and maybe a couple of smart ones, who know all the answers to the questions. Your mother has an idea: “Invite Jerry.” You scoff at the thought. Jerry is the outlier—the class grouch, making trouble but never headway. Nobody hates him, but you all roll your eyes whenever he raises his hand, because you know what’s coming next. Plus, Jerry is no fun. He actually likes school. For just those reasons, however, your mom thinks you should include him; it will loosen the guest-list, shake things up a little. So, with a sigh, you agree.

Jerry comes to the party. Everyone laughs when he arrives—dressed like a dork, of course, because he is a dork. Still, he hangs around, and talks. And then something strange happens. The other kids begin to listen to Jerry. They sidle toward him, and cluster round. He seems different from everyone else; that used to be a liability, but now it makes him stand out from the crowd. It even makes him—get this—a little bit cool. And so it is that, as the party ends, everybody leaves with Jerry, hanging on his every word. He has already blown out the candles on your cake, taken a large slice for himself, and handed round the rest. He has opened your presents. He has utterly won over your mother, who finds him “so real” compared with the rest of your pals. Today, in short, feels like his birthday, not yours. Everybody loves Jerry.

All of which is one way of describing the events that have overtaken the Labour Party in Great Britain over the past four months—events that culminated, Saturday, in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the party.

(New Yorker)

It may be one way, but it’s an excruciatingly dreadful way.



Short memory

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

(Washington Post)

While were at it:

Penney, now a major but still a petite blonde with a Colgate grin, is no longer a combat flier.

(Note: This story is 5 years old, but is posted on social media today.)



Don’t ask us





Yeah. What goes here, anyhow? (Los Angeles Times)