Testy Business Copy Editor

Investors pondering where the stock market is headed after its January drubbing might consider the words of Stanley Fischer.

Fischer is vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and in a speech earlier this week, he addressed the question of what steps the Fed might take next regarding monetary policy.

“We simply do not know,” he said. “The world is an uncertain place.”

If the No. 2 officer of the U.S. central bank isn’t sure what’s around the corner with regard to the factors buffeting stock prices — namely sharply lower oil prices, China’s troubles, volatile financial markets and uncertainty about the Fed’s upcoming actions — it’s tough for average investors to find much clarity.

(Los Angeles Times)

You might think, or hope, the story — such as it is — would end there. But no.

Stock-market predictions are worthless overall, and it is a waste of time to run stories based on them. It’s worse, though, when the stories acknowledge the futility of predictions yet go on and on anyhow.


No-news news writing

Before someone shouts “is Uber changing its logo really news?”, let me answer that for you: no, it probably isn’t.

Yet, much like my Dad’s sensational perm in the 70s, a striking new look can turn heads and get everyone talking.

But, much like my Dad’s sensational moustache in the 90s, not always in a good way.

On Tuesday, the controversial but extremely popular ride-sharing service unveiled its sweeping new look.



Hall of shame

Nothing brings out bad headlines like the weather. A small sample:

carroll counyty frederick newhaven





Forget flood. Forget God. Interview horses.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan this week to reduce the size of the Victorian-era carriage-horse industry and relocate carriage horses to Central Park, virtually the only parties involved not heard from were the horses themselves. As ever, they maintained a dignified silence amid the hubbub.

(New York Times)


To the guillotine!

Every few weeks, the readers of the Sunday New York Times — that is, the readers of the paper Sunday New York Times — receive two magazines.

The first is earnest, self-serious and left-wing correct to a fault, offering the kind of civic and cultural medicine that journalists often believe people should be encouraged if not forced to take. This is the venerable New York Times Magazine.

The second is its opposite: Incorrect, even nearly blasphemous, at least from a liberal standpoint, in its veneration of wealth, glamour, materialism and superficiality. A one-percenter celebration. This is T, a spin-off of the Times Magazine.

(USA Today)


Take that, iPad!

Ben Morris wasn’t supposed to be out delivering newspapers that morning. But because he was, a 77-year-old grandmother is still alive.

It was 17 degrees in Casper, Wyo., when Morris, 55, set out to deliver the 20,000-circulation Star-Tribune. On most overnights, Morris, the district circulation manager of the news organization, is in the office overseeing the delivery operation. But last Friday, a contractor quit, and he filled in on the route.

On a whim, Morris decided to reverse the route direction. There was no rhyme or reason to do so, he just felt like he wanted to switch things up.

So on a normal morning, Edith Brekken’s home would have been his 73rd stop. Instead, she was the third.

(Washington Post)



Then I started reading. And stopped. Again.

They came from outside the confines of politics as we know it — he from the flashy, fickle, hyperactive world of New York real estate, casino deals and reality TV and she from a frozen land north of the 49th parallel.

(Washington Post)


And then I stopped reading

Mike Hearn, a British computer programmer, holed up in his two-bedroom apartment in Zurich over several days and nights last week, writing a cri de coeur.

(New York Times)


Again, the lottery lie

The Tennessee couple who bought one of the three grand prize-winning Powerball tickets plans to return to work on Monday. Because, well, “why not?”

Despite their newfound wealth – a $529 million prize – John and Lisa Robinson revealed few grand plans for the money at a Friday afternoon news conference. …

The pair said on Friday that they plan to claim their share of the world record $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot in one lump sum, roughly $328 million after taxes ….

(Washington Post)

A Tennessee couple bought one of the three winning Powerball tickets and plan to take a lump-sum payment of nearly $328 million (about $187 million after taxes).

(New York Times)

The lump sum is not $529 million, despite what the lottery people want you to think. Lump-sum prizes are considerably less than the full “jackpot” (or, in this case, one-third of the “jackpot”, which would have to be taken in 30 annual installments. We haven’t researched what the Robinsons’ lump sum would be, but the New York Times figures look about right.

This error repeats itself with every “jackpot.” Why?

The New York Daily News almost got it right.

(The Tennessee Lottery people compounded the error with the presentation of a “ceremonial check.” The check the Robinsons get will have taxes deducted from a much lesser sum.)





ESPN editing

Make sure you get the name right!

Alabama and Clemson played in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T on Monday night, and the Crimson Tide and Tigers will be favorites to return to the playoff this coming season.

The Alabama Crimson Tide coach took one of the biggest gambles of his career in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T against the Clemson Tigers.

Alabama’s win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T gave Nick Saban his fifth national title in 20 years as a head coach.

…  and so on.




And then I stopped reading

Any chance to explore the history of old Pennsylvania Station in mid-Manhattan underscores the wealth of The Times’s photo and clipping archive. We’ve come to call it the “lively morgue” for a very good reason: Its holdings, numbering in the millions (though stored under precarious conditions in the basement of an abutting office building), don’t just illuminate the past but breathe life into it. They warrant a regular feature on Tumblr.

(New York Times)



The Times has been fortunate in being able to maintain its large newsroom staff of about 1,300 staff members. Many other newspaper staffs are shadows of what they were 15 years ago, down by half or even more in some cases.

Mr. Baquet said he expects that this number will remain about the same this year, but that over time it may not be realistic, because of the decline in advertising revenue that has rocked the entire newspaper industry. “Given the reality of the journalism world we’re in, we certainly can’t get any bigger and we probably have to get a little smaller,” he said. “But we’ll remain robust.”
The Times is in the midst of revamping its video operation, with Alexandra MacCallum, a high-ranking editor, newly assigned to head it. Given video’s potential for generating advertising dollars, she will report both to Mr. Baquet and to Meredith Kopit Levien, in charge of revenue for The Times. That would have been unheard-of a decade ago, but there is now much greater cooperation between the business side and the newsroom, including the appointment of a newsroom editor in charge of developing newsroom projects that appeal to corporate sponsors.
Purists may shudder at such arrangements. And they do so understandably, since there is an inherent danger that the journalism will be steered by the company’s commercial interests; it’s a concern similar to those surrounding media companies’ “native advertising,” which resembles news content. It all requires steady vigilance.
Mr. Baquet stressed that the journalistic decisions about video will be his. He also said he was increasingly aware of a big danger in news today: that increased speed and brutal competition will come at the expense of accuracy.

(New York Times)


Economics 101

It’s official: J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the highest-grossing film of all time in North America, not accounting for inflation.

(Hollywood Reporter)

If the ranking doesn’t take inflation into account, it’s not “official.” Factor in inflation, which is the only legitimate way to measure such things, and “Gone With the Wind” grossed roughly  twice what “The Force Awakens” has so far. Sirloin steak cost about 30 cents a pound in 1939.


Stoopid Science

If you’re an unwary fly, here’s a tongue-lashing you won’t see coming. A study of chameleons’ stretchy tongues has found that smaller species, some the size of your thumb, can hurl their sticky lickers with blazing-fast accelerations – up to 264 times the force of gravity.

(Los Angeles Times)

Few if any newspaper readers are flies, “unwary” or not.


He’s a weatherman, not a mathematician

“We’re looking at no less than four storms in seven days,” said Kerry Jones, a meteorologist with the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service. “That’s impressive. It looks like a storm every 24 hours.”

(Albuquerque Journal)

He said it. That doesn’t mean you have to use it.


Find another cliché

Same paper, same day. (New York Daily News)

Homeless New Yorkers gave the cold shoulder Sunday to Gov. Cuomo’s order that could force them off the streets when the temperature dips below freezing.

Mayor de Blasio is giving the cold shoulder to Gov. Cuomo’s order forcing the homeless off the streets in frigid weather.


Many words

There’s a fine line between “dressing up” and “falsifying.” The story refers to “manipulation,” which may straddle that line. “Rigging” is good. Story refers to “altering data,” which would qualify as “falsifying.” (New York Times)



Reporting 101

We missed this style ruling from AP when it was issued last year:

Generally, AP does not cover suicides or suicide attempts, unless the person involved is a well-known figure or the circumstances are particularly unusual or publicly disruptive. Suicide stories, when written, should not go into detail on methods used.

Sorry, AP, but if you’re going to write about a suicide, you can’t leave out important details like that.


As the mercury falls

An executive order by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to keep homeless New Yorkers off the streets goes into effect Tuesday as extreme cold sets in and temperatures are expected to drop.



Get to the point

The North Pole is famous for many things. 24-hour darkness, polar bears, and of course, being the home of Santa Claus.

One thing it’s definitely not known for, though, is balmy, casual, “Hey, how cold is it? Do you think I need a light jacket?” type temperatures.

The north pole is freezing. It’s one of the coldest places on Earth. In fact, it’s sometimes colder than Mars. Mars!


No news there. So what’s the big deal?

But according to scientists, a storm the likes of which few have ever seen is about to raise north pole temperatures to as high as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s about 50 degrees warmer than usual and is, according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus, “absolutely terrifying.”

We might have put that in the lede. But we guess Upworthy wanted a fanfare.