Help wanted

Ever get tired of hearing: Why can’t you print any good news?

The Times’ answer is simple: Read our Life Page.

In that section, content ranges from health stories to drool-inducing food recipes. We also profile artists and musicians, as well as feature gardening projects and faith-based initiatives. Our Sunday pieces also focus on human-interest stories. If you have the creative flair to bring those stories to life, then The Times wants you.

We are seeking a full-time feature writer to start immediately. Potential candidates need to have a college degree in English or preferably journalism. Knowledge of the AP stylebook is a must. A couple of years in a daily newsroom is ideal, but weekly or college newspaper experience will be considered. Knowledge of photography, video recording and editing are a plus. And if you know your way around InDesign, brownie points for you.

And speaking of brownies, the Life Editor is known for bringing in homemade goodies as the occasion calls for it, or if the staff is having a bad case of the “Mondays.”

The Times is located in Gainesville, Ga., next to Lake Lanier. It is an easy 30-minute drive to Athens, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. Or if you want a large city atmosphere, downtown Atlanta is about an hour away.

If this sounds like the gig for you, send a cover letter, resume and three writing samples to with the subject line “Life reporter.”

(Gainesville Times, at

Hate Mondays, love empty calories and want to make people smile? Hire Garfield the cat.


Stop it! You’re killing me!

Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski said Monday that she will not seek reelection in 2016, opening a seat long coveted by Free State Democrats looking to advance. …

Asked Monday whether she has a successor in mind, Mikulski demurred.

“Maryland has a lot of talent, and they’ll be telling you about it within the next 10 minutes,” she said to laughter among reporters gathered at the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf.




Factual error

I’m as surprised as anyone that there are still people employed to teach philosophy (and journalism). I’m not surprised that a philosophy prof isn’t smarter than a second-grader, or that the New York Times would publish the prof’s nonsense.

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshman in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.


A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.


This and that

Friends! I’m doing a piece for the NYT about the ways punctuation has changed — and taken new weight — in the texting era. For example:

  • I’ve started putting a space before an exclamation point in text messages, ie, “Can’t wait !” Didn’t immediately realize this but upon further reflection decided this is because a straight exclamation point sounds too intense, and I like to have a little space for pause.
  • The other day somebody replied to a text about dinner plans with “what time” (no “?”) and I was like, UH YEAH FUCK YOU TOO.
  • Nobody uses commas anymore, right? A comma after “Hi” or “Hi Jess” is basically, as one friend put it, “geriatric.”

What are your texting and/or email punctuation quirks?

What can you learn about a person from their e-punctuation style?

Stories? Theories? Linguistic knowledge?

(Language Log)

No, not really. Do let us know if UH YEAH FUCK YOU TOO makes it into the Times.


This and that

Readers who complain about the comments will have more opportunity to complain in the comments.

Censorship! Discrimination! Downright confusion! These are some of the complaints I get from readers about The Times’s reader commenting system and its glitches. It’s always a hot topic and more so, it seems, in recent days.

I talked with the community editor, Bassey Etim, on Tuesday to address some complaints and see where Times commenting is headed.

He answered my questions, and also said something I’ll mention first – that The Times not only has no intention of getting rid of comments, as some media organizations have done, but also intends to expand and build on them.

(New York Times)


Stoopid Science

After nearly eight centuries of accusations for spreading the bubonic plague, scientists say they have compelling evidence to exonerate the much-maligned black rat. In the process, they’ve identified a new culprit: gerbils.

It’s always the cute ones you have to watch out for, isn’t it?

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, climate data dating back to the 14th century contradicts the commonly held notion that European plague outbreaks were caused by a reservoir of disease-carrying fleas hosted by the continent’s rat population. …

“If we’re right, we’ll have to rewrite that part of history,” [Nils Christian Stenseth, an author of the study] said.

And hundreds of elementary school classrooms will have to rethink their class pet.

(Washington Post)


From the self-love beat

The visible universe’s greatest newsgatherers let us know that the L.A. bureau is fully staffed when Hollywood hands out awards to itself. Bonus: When you can gather kwotes like that, how will the Buffalo paper get along without AP?


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Show Bits brings you the 87th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.



“I can’t believe this is happening!” — A dazed Julianne Moore as she stepped off stage after winning the best actress Oscar.

—Sandy Cohen — >


To the guillotine!

Things we can afford and things we can’t, says the Los Angeles Times.


Screen shot 2015-02-22 at 10.02.28 AM






Journalism today

Brayden Olson claims many women have reached out to him because they think he is the real-life Christian Grey, the fictional male character in ”Fifty Shades of Grey.”

We don’t know if this really happens, and we’ll also point out that this guy is not a billionaire (like Grey), and we have no idea if he is interested in S&M (like Grey). Still, we enjoyed the story he shared with us, so we’ll give the highlights here. Take them with a grain of salt.




(Business Insider) Hat tip (and later-deleted disclaimer): Jim Romenesko.


Help wanted

From an ad for … wait for it … wait for it … a proofreader. Bonus: A “human” proofreader.

We are always looking for people who possess a passion for innovation, a nack for knowledge, and a yearning for success!

(Simply Hired)


This and that

If you’re using words like “prioritize” and “triage,” your problems go way beyond “I was busy.” If you want to cut down on the baloney in advance, start with “In a world. …”

In a world with buzzing phones, pinging computers and demanding social media, not every piece of copy that comes across your desk is going to get hours of loving editing attention. Some just get a quick Band-aid while others need full-scale surgery.

This Webinar will tackle the basics of triage editing to help you decide how to spend your precious editing time wisely.

  • The basics of triage editing

  • How to define the different levels of editing

  • How to prioritize what your readers value

  • How to craft your own triage criteria

  • How to work triage editing into your workflow



Today’s historical revisionism





(Editor and Publisher)

After you’ve taken a nice picture of the hot-type page form, what then?



This and that

Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist and undocumented immigrant, is joining forces with the Los Angeles Times to create a new section of the Times web site devoted to race, immigration and multiculturalism.

The partnership will be called #EmergingUS and, in an unusual arrangement for a newspaper, it will be shared between the Times and Vargas.

Austin Beutner, the publisher and CEO of the Times, said #EmergingUS is the first of several “verticals” of news coverage the newspaper will establish in the months to come.


This story is played as “milestone in multicultural journalism,” not “how do you do business with an undocumented immigrant and not invite a visit from the feds?” If Mr. Beutner thinks he is insulating himself from the immigration laws by becoming a “business partner” with Vargas instead of hiring him directly, he has gotten bad advice from his attorneys. Bonus blather:

Since being appointed the publisher last August, Beutner, a former investment banker, has spoken of “unburdening” his journalists from print formats.

The Times’ web traffic shows “really high engagement” at the 100-word level and the 1,000-to-2,000-plus-word level, he said.

“You find the dead zone in the middle, 500-700 words. That form factor, which exists in many newspapers, doesn’t exist because Steve Coll and the Columbia Journalism School thinks 500-700 words is the best form factor. It’s because five of those stories fit on a printed page. So we’re unburdening our journalists from that format.”



Groaner, and not in a good way

blade-prints charming




Romantic novels are the Prints Charming of the publishing industry.

(The Blade, Toledo, Ohio)

“One of America’s great newspapers.”


From the dead beat

Lesley Gore, the singer of Sixties hits like “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me,” passed away today at a New York City hospital following a bout with cancer.

(Rolling Stone)

“Passed away”? “Bout”? Can’t anyone write an obit any more?


Today’s worst analogy

Researchers at Tel Aviv University were not planning on shaking a pillar of Darwinism when they found something interesting: an animal that can re-code its own protein library “on the fly” to adapt to its surroundings.


That’s what they found with a squid. It’s as if a copy editor takes a library book and adapts an excerpt for different purposes: one for the newspaper, one for the formal journal, one for Facebook. By studying RNA editing (a process where RNA transcripts of DNA are modified en route to being translated to protein), they found that most of the proteins in a squid were edited:

(Evolution News and Views)


On the desk at the New Yorker

Then I was allowed to work on the copydesk. It changed the way I read prose—I was paid to find mistakes, and it was a long time before I could once again read for pleasure. I spontaneously copy-edited everything I laid eyes on. I had a paperback edition of Faulkner’s “The Hamlet” that was so riddled with typos that it almost ruined Flem Snopes for me. But, as I relaxed on the copydesk, I was sometimes even able to enjoy myself. There were writers who weren’t very good and yet were impossible to improve, like figure skaters who hit all the technical marks but have a limited artistic appeal and sport unflattering costumes. There were competent writers on interesting subjects who were just careless enough in their spelling and punctuation to keep a girl occupied. And there were writers whose prose came in so highly polished that I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to read them: John Updike, Pauline Kael, Mark Singer, Ian Frazier! In a way, these were the hardest, because the prose lulled me into complacency. They transcended the office of the copy editor. It was hard to stay alert for opportunities to meddle in an immaculate manuscript, yet if you missed something you couldn’t use that as an excuse. The only thing to do was style the spelling, and even that could be fraught. Oliver Sacks turned out to be attached to the spelling of “sulphur” and “sulphuric” that he remembered from his chemistry experiments as a boy. (The New Yorker spells it less romantically: “sulfur,” “sulfuric.”)

When Pauline Kael typed “prevert” instead of “pervert,” she meant “prevert” (unless she was reviewing something by Jacques Prévert). Luckily, she was kind, and if you changed it she would just change it back and stet it without upbraiding you. Kael revised up until closing, and though we lackeys resented writers who kept changing “doughnut” to “coffee cake” then back to “doughnut” and then “coffee cake” again, because it meant more work for us, Kael’s changes were always improvements. She approached me once with a proof in her hand. She couldn’t figure out how to fix something, and I was the only one around. She knew me from chatting in the ladies’ room on the eighteenth floor. I looked at the proof and made a suggestion, and she was delighted. “You helped me!” she gasped.

I was on the copydesk when John McPhee’s pieces on geology were set up. I tried to keep my head. There was not much to do. McPhee was like John Updike, in that he turned in immaculate copy. Really, all I had to do was read. I’d heard that McPhee compared his manuscript with the galleys, so anything The New Yorker did he noticed. I just looked up words in the dictionary to check the spelling (which was invariably correct, but I had to check) and determined whether compound words were hyphenated, whether hyphenated words should be closed up or printed as two words, or whether I should stet the hyphen. It was my province to capitalize the “i” in Interstate 80, hyphenate I-80, and lowercase “the interstate.”

(Mary Norris in the New Yorker)


‘But the word was in the lede’

Good thing she didn’t hit him with a spatula.


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CORPUS CHRISTI – A 48-year-old woman turned down her neighbor’s request to see her breasts by cutting him with a buck knife, according to a Corpus Christi police news release.

(Corpus Christi Caller Times)


And then I stopped reading

“The Walking Dead” has returned from its midseason break in an inordinately pensive mood, as if the characters are experiencing an existential crisis beyond the actual threats to their existence. Think of it as Woody Allen’s “Interiors,” if the key players periodically had to jam knives into the heads of slavering zombies.

(Boston Herald)


Today’s shad ‘n’ Freud



(NBC News)

Also, when he talks about health care, someone somewhere is having the sniffles; and while he’s discussing peace, someone’s usually shooting at someone else.