RIP Bill Walsh

I am so sad that Bill Walsh died today. I share my sorrow with the copy-editing community nationwide.  No one deserves Bill’s fate, but it seems especially cruel for him. He was a man who clearly enjoyed life and had a lot more to do.

My heart goes out to Jacqueline and the rest of Bill’s family.

I met Bill at the inaugural conference of the American Copy Editors Society in 1997. That was before he became a copy-editing icon.

Over the years, I had contact with Bill mostly through ACES and exchanges related to our respective editing websites. In 2000, Bill hired me at the Washington Post, for which I am immeasurably grateful.

Bill and I were never close friends. Our extracurricular pursuits were mostly at odds and our social circles did not intersect. But I had enormous respect for him not only as the author of three pretty good books about editing, but also for running a copy desk like it should be run (for example, Bill wouldn’t bat an eyelash if I took two hours to edit a story). We had opposite temperaments, and I’m sure mine wasn’t easy to accommodate.

He wrote one of the most artful evaluations in human-resources history. He called me “unique,” and delicately explained away my eccentricities.

Bill Walsh belongs alongside Theodore Bernstein in the copy-editing Hall of Fame (which doesn’t exist, but should). It was an honor to work with and for him. He made me a better editor.

 

 

 

No confidence in confidence

Trump won. Consumer and small-business confidence surged. Now what?

 Albuquerque Journal

 

Correlation is not causation. Although the election result has been “credited” with improving some measures of the economy, there is no objective proof of it. The headline states flatly that Donald Trump’s election was what caused increases in “confidence.”

This story exacerbates the fallacy by its dependence on a single source, a Wells Fargo economist.

The consumer “confidence” and “sentiment” surveys are intended to indicate what the public thinks will happen financially to themselves and the nation. The reports, then, are predictions about matters about which the respondents cannot know.

We are not statisticians, so we cannot make intelligent comments about the surveys’ methodologies. But we know, for example, that it’s pointless to ask people what they think will happen six months in the future. If the survey respondents could make such accurate predictions, they shouldn’t worry about their finances because they could make a killing in the stock markets. There is no indication that the survey administrators go back to the people they question to find out how predictions of their own financial status matched reality. And any on-target predictions would be coincidental.

More from Testy Business Copy Editors.

 

When business writers use bad quotes

The latest from Testy Business Copy Editors.

—-

Wall Street is throwing the most money at U.S. energy companies since at least 2000 amid growing confidence that the industry is emerging from the worst downturn in a generation. – (Bloomberg)

Don’t get confused. Contrary to popular opinion (and many careless business writers), “Wall Street” usually doesn’t throw money at companies at all.  The beneficiaries, though, can include company executives who get stock along with their salaries (although they might not, or cannot, dump their shares to reap the profits, lest doing so trigger a selloff and spoil the fun for others.

(Don’t say “since at least 2000.” Find out when it was.)

Investopedia has a useful primer, “Why do companies care about their stock prices?” Rookie editors, and not a few veterans, could stand to read it.

–––

In case you had started to doubt it: People still love the iPhone. …

 “We’re thrilled to report that our holiday quarter results generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way. We sold more iPhones than ever before and set all-time revenue records for iPhone, Services, Mac and Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.Washington Post

Who doubted it? Who cares? Cut to the chase. For example, what was the previous highest quarterly revenue? What were the previous revenue records for iPhone, Service, Mac and Apple Watch?

Why not find the numbers, and report them?

–––

“We’re using almost a hundred percent more tires to produce the same mileage of transportation,” FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith told the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday. “Why is that? Because the road infrastructure has so many potholes in it, it’s tearing up tires faster than before.” NPR

Interesting if true. But we shouldn’t just report such statements without checking with other sources to make sure they’re plausible.

You could start with the Tire Industry Association, a trade group. It’s true that association members are interested in selling more tires, but it’s a start. State highway administrations in might have relevant information, like where the problem (if there is one) is the worst. Ask some truck makers about wear and tear. Do something. Don’t rely solely on FedEx.

–––

Cooper Hefner, “chief creative officer” of Playboy:

“When you have a company, and the founder is responsible for kick-starting the sexual revolution, and then you pluck out that aspect of the company’s DNA by removing the nudity, it makes a lot of people, including me, sit and say, ‘What the hell is the company doing?’”New York Times

Generating publicity, that’s what, just like the announcement that nudity is returning to the magazine.

The Times’ story, which ran in Business Day, has very little business. It mentions that Playboy hopes to sell more ads and get more exposure on newsstands, and that’s it.

Aside: The Times used a hackneyed lede (Playboy is returning to the bare essentials) but that’s no surprise, however disappointing. More puzzling is why Science Times ran the story, including the bare essentials.

–––

Empty quote of the week:

We’re pleased to offer these competitive jobs that come with the opportunity to grow careers,” said David Hupper, senior vice president and regional leader in Albuquerque.Albuquerque Journal

–––

Phillip Blanchard is a former business editor at the Washington Post. Previously he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and newspapers in upstate New York. He is founder of Testy Copy Editors.

 

Testy Business Copy Editors returns

After 2+ years in the wilderness, Testy Business Copy Editors is back, now as a feature of Talking Biz News.

Join us there, and load up the comments.

 

 

Testy Business Copy Editor

Testy Business Copy Editor ran for three years on the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism website, from January 2011 through December 2013. It was canceled, we were told, for budgetary reasons.

We were promised that the posts would remain archived on the Reynolds website, but they were deleted anyhow. However, the posts remain available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. (Take a look.)

Below are the last two posts, in which we summarized the most important points from  the series.

—–

Dec. 4, 2013

Mistakes are inevitable: a wrong number here, a typing error there. The news media are full of them. There was never a realistic hope that they would disappear entirely. But when mistakes multiply, when the same ones are made over and over, the system is broken.

With the Worldwide War on Copy Editing nearing its conclusion and inevitable outcome, it will only get worse. Reports just this side of gibberish are lamented, then ignored, and then accepted.

Financial news coverage is especially susceptible to error. Put the decimal point in the wrong place, or miscalculate a simple percentage, and a news report becomes illogical and, often, indecipherable.

The big mistakes in the business press, though, are more profound than isolated errors. The problems are as acute in an analysis of the Federal Open Market Committee minutes as they are in a puff piece about a new store in town: “We’ve always done it that way.” The business pages, always a niche feature, turn readers away with their clubbishness, relentless cheerleading for capitalism, perpetual state of denial and, not least, banality.* This means that a lot of readers aren’t learning things they ought to know.

Exclusivity: As the business sections retreat into the back pages of newspapers and the bowels of general-news websites, the clubhouse metaphor becomes more apt. The stories are rarely more than businesses talking to other businesses. Policy coverage is dedicated to speculating how the government might help businesses make money, not to explaining how it might affect the rabble (By this, I mean the general population, not individuals who might reap riches or lose everything. The human side of finance is rarely portrayed as anything other than one person’s road to prosperity or ruin. Individual “business leaders” — store owners and investment bankers alike — are profiled as exemplars of American values. Broad trends are obscured by local accounts of how Main Street reacts to general economic triumph or turmoil. Apple introduces a new iPad? Talk to people lined up to buy it, all of whom know what they are expected to say and do not disappoint. Get a picture (with an iPhone, of course, not a camera handled by a professional photographer). Unemployment drops by a tenth of a percentage point? Talk to the local fast-food franchisee, who hired a new grillmeister, even though it has no relevance to the jobs report, which, in any case, is likely to be revised a few weeks later. Leave the big picture to the wires.

Reaction: The business press acts as one when a story breaks, regardless of whether it’s a real story or not. For example, this has been a record-setting year for the stock market by some measures. But the “records” don’t look so impressive when the various indexes are adjusted for inflation, which they almost never are. And, of course, the companies listed in the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index change periodically, so they compare different companies over time. This is elementary, and I’ve mentioned this before. Nobody listened. For local media, we’ve just been subjected to the annual orgy of Christmas-shopping stories, which are pretty much the same every year. “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday” have no angles left unexplored, yet hundreds of newspapers have assigned precious resources to interview people in line to buy cheap TV sets and toys. If our eyes glaze over — and they should — imagine being a reader. Another kind of reaction pops up in nearly every story: the opinions of “analysts,” who usually are stockbrokers or investment advisers with vested interests. Their comments are almost universally useless, yet the same ones are called over and over to muse on the day’s events even when “analysis” is either obvious or irrelevant, or both.

*The same could be said for political coverage, but that’s too easy a target.

———

NEXT: Sensationalism, favoritism, and contradiction.

—–

Dec. 20, 2013

Editor’s note:  This will be Phillip Blanchard’s final regular post for BusinessJournalism.org. A copy editor on the Washington Post Financial desk for 6 1/2 years and founder of an online forum called Testy Copy Editors, Blanchard has written here about best practices for the business press since January 2011.  An archive of his posts will always be here: Testy Business Copy Editor.

 And he will continue to write regularly at Testy Copy Editors We wish him well.

Author’s note:  This is the second and last part of my valedictory. The first part appeared on Dec. 4.

Sensationalism: The business press is more restrained than general news and sports, but still has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. The stock market is not the economy but we persist in giving the impression that it is. Savvy investors — by which I mean professionals, since few individual investors are particularly savvy — know this and often bid shares up and down based not on economics, but rather on how they think other traders will buy and sell. It’s gambling, pure and simple. That’s not news, but the business press usually acts as though it’s something else. This sort of reporting is unhelpful and should be curtailed. Business reporters and editors need to stop thinking of themselves as part of the grand market, and instead embrace true outsider status. Copy editors can contribute by stopping themselves every time they are inclined to include the word “record” in a headline. Any claim of a “record” should be scrutinized and, if need be, challenged.

Favoritism: We play favorites, with business people, companies and, especially, economic systems. Steve Jobs, of course, was the favorite among favorites, and in many ways still is. But we also lionize people like Henry Blodget, despite legal problems. Blodget’s Business Insider was his way back into the limelight after he was kicked out of the securities business for fraud. Incredibly, he is taken seriously. Same with Michael Milken, who went to prison and also was barred from the securities market for fraud. He now bills himself as “philanthropist, financier, medical research innovator, public health advocate.” The press loves him, perhaps because it’s thought that he’s turned over a new leaf. It’s amusing that Blodget’s Business Insider is a leader in the we-love-Milken club.

There are local favorites, too. Developer Douglas Jemal, who was a special favorite of the Washington Post when I worked there. The Washington Business Journal liked him, too. The idolatry seemingly came to a crashing end when Jeman was indicted in 2005. But, no. He was convicted of fraud the following year, but the Post, noting that he was acquitted of other charges, cast his trial’s result as a victory:Jemal

The Post followed up with a feature about how Jamal was recovering from his ordeal. It included a picture of him and his pet parrot. The Post continues its enthusiastic coverage of Jemal projects, omitting of course that he is a convicted fraudster. Editors — even if they admire a developer convicted of fraud — have to put the brakes on when things go south. It’s easier if you spike the fawning features in the first place.

Contradiction: The business press, with its story selection and play, often seems to report one thing and also its opposite without trying to reconcile the contradiction. The best current example is the “economic recovery.” We dutifully report estimates of gross national product and its fluctuations, and declare that “the recovery” is proceeding. Yet we also report that millions of people are underemployed, many service workers need food stamps to supplement their pay, older workers are being forced out of their jobs, unemployment is distressingly high among young people and minorities, and so on. Editors have to allow for the reality that “recovery” means different things to different people. A good start is to report the GDP figures without characterizing them. Go ahead and say the government estimates that the GDP (not “the economy”) rose at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter and leave it at that (but explain in there somewhere what the GDP is). Since there are several interpretations of the figure, don’t choose one. Another idea, which would require something of a revolution to put into practice, would be to question the definition of “recovery.” The word seems to have outlived its usefulness. It conveys an optimism that may or may not be justified.

—-

Editors who try to follow my advice, of whom there are none that I can tell, are doomed to a life of conflict and second-guessing. Editors who don’t can probably find jobs.

 

 

Forward into the glorious future!

From the latest New York Times report outlining “the newsroom’s strategy and aspirations.” As with any report, there is always the danger that someone might read it.

 

We devote a large amount of resources to stories that relatively few people read. Except in some mission-driven areas or in areas where evidence suggests that the articles have disproportionate value to subscribers, there is little justification for this. It wastes time — of reporters, backfielders, copy editors, photo editors and others — and dilutes our report.

***

The 2020 group believes strongly in the value of copy-editing. There is a high price for easily identifiable errors, such as spelling and grammar mistakes. An increase in such errors would send the wrong message to readers — that our product is sloppy and lacks high value. When we publish sloppy stories, readers complain to us in significant numbers. At the same time, The Times spends too much time on low-value line-editing, such as the moving, unmoving and removing of paragraphs, and too little on conceptual editing and story sharpening, including on questions like what form a story should take. A shift toward front-end editing will need to involve changes in multiple parts of the newsroom, including the copy desk, the backfield and the masthead.

The Times currently devotes too many resources to low-value editing — and, by extension, too many to editing overall. Our journalism and our readers would be better served if we instead placed an even higher priority on newsgathering in all of its forms.

***

Reporters said they wanted more helpful interaction with their editors at the outset; less editing in the middle; and more attention to presentation and promotion. There was much frustration about stories being held because of print considerations. And several editors and reporters said they would like to see a copy editing process that was more responsive to the complexity of the story and the urgency of the news.

***

“Hire editors and reporters who don’t need to have their hands held. Honestly, how can we still afford to have five editors arguing for hours over a routine day story? The print mentality still rules the newsroom, from the top down. But it is important to maintain the commitment to copy editing, as it is essential to the quality of the journalism and the reputation of the news site.”

“There is too much editing on the copy desks, where editors are adhering to a style that is increasingly becoming far too rigid for the Times.”

“Too often, on breaking, competitive stories, the time from the reporter filing, to the slot publishing, is far too long. I get the impression that the backfield and copy desk are overloaded and have trouble prioritizing.”

“Most of the time, you time and edit stories to print requirements, no matter what the official doctrine says. I’ve had things hold for weeks while waiting for a print slot.”

***

There was quite a bit of ambivalence about changing the tone or sensibility of writing. Some were eager to try new voice and forms but weren’t quite sure how. Others said they were stymied by the backfield or copy desk when they tried. Others still felt we should be very cautious about making any such changes.

***

“We frequently hear from the top editors at the paper that they want more voice and less institutional-ese in our stories. But typically when you try to make the prose more playful or engaging in a news story, or just generally inject a bit more personality, the copy desk is quick to ferret it out, and it can be exhausting to push back on every single word or phrase. If we’re going to loosen our style up a bit, the copy desk is going to be the key swing demographic.”

 

By Dummy Byline

We’re not the public editor or the mommy of the New York Times, so we’re not going to break the news to the executive editor of the New York Times that readers pay about as much attention to bylines as they do to the Postal Service boilerplate, and remember bylines about as well as readers remember last month’s lottery numbers.

 

You’ve spoken about buyouts and other newsroom cuts. How might those impact readers? Will readers be notified if favorite bylines move on, one subscriber asks?

That’s interesting, I hadn’t thought of that. We will have a smaller newsroom but I don’t know what that means yet because there’s so many factors. Print advertising, which was one of the things that most sustained our newsroom, and all newsrooms, for a long time is dropping significantly — and more this year than ever before. The election of Donald Trump also changes the calculation, for example. We went from three to six people covering the White House. We have to think harder about how we cover agencies in Washington, because it’s going to undergo a dramatic transformation. My goal is to keep as many people as we can whose work is to gather news. Who write stories, cover the world, take video.

(New York Times)

 

Especially No. 14

This comes from the “The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same” file. The following newspaper submission guidelines appeared in the Portland, Maine, Daily Eastern Argus on May 10, 1864:

Hints to Correspondents: The following simple rule for the guidance of those who write for the press, if observed, would save editors and printers a world of trouble. Correspondents should adhere to them:

  1. Write with black ink on white paper with ruled lines.
  2. Make the pages smaller than that of a foolscap sheet.
  3. Leave one side of each sheet blank.
  4. Give the written pages an ample margin all round.
  5. Number the pages in the order of their succession.
  6. Write in a plain, bold hand, with less respect to beauty.
  7. Use no observations that are not to appear in print.
  8. Punctuate the manuscript as it should be printed.
  9. For italics, underscore one line; for small capitals, two; capitals, three.
  10. Take special pains with every letter in proper names.
  11. Review every word to be sure that none is unintelligible.
  12. Put directions to the printer at the head of the first page.
  13. Never write a private letter to the Editor on the printer’s copy, but always on a separate sheet.
  14. Don’t depend on the editor to correct your manuscript.
  15. Don’s ask him to return the “copy.”
  16. Don’t press him to tell you why he refused to publish your article.  

(Emerging Civil War)

 

This and that

Making laws, making sausage, making transparency. The list grows ever longer.

Thanks to digital tools and social media, newsrooms have many ways to pull back the curtain on the reporting process. At the beginning of every important story or project, ask your team how they will incorporate transparency in their plan. This isn’t just a public relations stunt to say, “Look at all the cool stuff we do.” It’s way to let the public learn, question and contribute. It can define the work of real journalism at a time others want to delegitimize it.

(Columbia Journalism Review)

 

This and that

When people say odd things, report what they say. Unless you’re Fox News. Then report what they say and spin it funny, because Obama is still in office till Jan. 20. (No pushback. No Watergate-level revelation from the Washington Post, but an embassy handout.)

The owner of the Istanbul nightclub targeted early Sunday by a Santa Claus-clad killer reportedly said his establishment had increased security in the past week after warnings from “American intelligence.”

Mehmet Kocarslan told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that his Reina nightclub had received some type of warning prior to the attack, which killed at least 39 and wounded nearly 70 others. Police are still hunting the assailant, who has not been publicly identified. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of Sunday morning.

But the U.S. Embassy on Sunday pushed back on Kocarslan, saying there was no “specific” alert.

“The U.S. Government did not warn Americans to stay away from specific venues or neighborhoods,” said a statement, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

(Fox News)

 

Stylebook latest

If your stylebook doesn’t look like this then you’re a book collector, not a copy editor.

capture

(New York Times)

 

Writing tips

Memo to self: Stop ending postings with “In this most blessed of seasons, our warmest regards to you and your loved ones for the coming year.” Change it to “Carthage must be destroyed.”

The start of your story hooks a reader, but the ending is what leaves an impression. It deserves as much attention as your opening.

Here are three strategies from columnist Leonard Pitts for writing powerful kickers.

End with a twist. Give readers a surprise, and take them in a direction they didn’t expect.

End with a quote. A great closing quote is rare. But every once in a while, the person you’re writing about gives you the words that button up the story. It’s almost rude to refuse that gift.

End with the beginning. Plant your kicker high in the story, then circle back to it at the end. This gives your readers a sense of closure or finality.

(Poynter)

 

Today’s teaser lede

Little did readers of real-estate brochures know, etc.

Todd Christopher Kohlhepp was a polished Realtor who ran his own successful South Carolina real estate firm upstate. In a company brochure, Kohlhepp portrayed himself as a tech-savvy professional committed to helping people buy and sell homes in Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

“At Todd Kohlhepp & Associates we feel that it’s important for our clients to know a little more about who’s working for them besides a name and number,” read the first part of his bio.

Beneath it was a picture of Kohlhepp dressed in a pinstripe suit, smiling broadly, next to a list of his business qualifications. He boasted that he was a licensed pilot and that his company had “One Focus … Results!”

But all of that omitted disturbing details about the 45-year-old’s past criminal history and why he was a registered sex offender.

(Washington Post)

 

Boo!

In Gannett layoff announcements, as in brain surgery, always numb the patient before shoving in the knife.

New president to lead Times Media,

St. Cloud Times

Times Media announced leadership and staffing changes Tuesday, in conjunction with similar moves occurring at many of parent company Gannett’s 109 local sites.

Kathy Jack-Romero, president of the USA TODAY Network’s West Plains region, has added the role of president of the St. Cloud Times and Times Media. She succeeds Melinda Vonderahe, who was the president of the Times since 2013.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with the team at the St. Cloud Times for the last seven months,” said Jack-Romero. “We have a passionate team of folks who are committed to making a difference here in the St. Cloud community.  That commitment and passion will not change.”

In addition to the St. Cloud market, the West Plains region includes the Fort Collins Coloradoan; Sioux Falls Argus Leader; Springfield News-Leader; Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home, Arkansas; and the Great Falls Tribune.

”I am thrilled that Kathy will take the lead as president of the St. Cloud Times,” said Karen Ferguson Fuson, president of the West Group of Gannett. “She has a long history of delivering results through developing great teams and is a recognized innovator and digital leader. Kathy is passionate about serving her community, and I am confident she will continue to enhance the way we serve our readers and advertisers,”

As part of a companywide downsizing announced Monday by Gannett President and CEO Robert Dickey, Times Media eliminated 12 staff positions, including journalists and advertising staffers.

“I appreciate the hard work and contributions made by each of the folks that were impacted this week. I wish them the very best,” Jack-Romero said.

(St. Cloud Times)

 

Ouch

The New York Times goes with A.G. Sulzberger, the boss’s son, as next publisher, because it will save money in scratching out letters on nameplates. Our best wishes go out to Carolyn Ryan and Jason Stallman, who must still ride the elevator with Sam Dolnick, a Sulzberger cousin who works there but didn’t get the job.

As part of the process, the company also took pains to ensure that each candidate got a breadth of experience, and it tracked their progress closely.

Carolyn Ryan, who now supervises the paper’s politics coverage, recalls that as metro editor she prepared detailed reports on both Mr. Dolnick and A. G. Sulzberger when they worked for her, focusing on qualities like leadership potential.

Jason Stallman, the Times sports editor, also prepared detailed reports on Mr. Dolnick when he served as the deputy department head.

(New York Times)

 

If no news send kittens

What we’re talking about

This election has been hard. It has tested the conventions of political discourse and decency. It has highlighted and deepened the divisions in our country.

The good news is that it’s almost over, and there is only one debate left between the two major candidates.

As we did for the first showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, BDN Portland is hosting a debate-watching party at Think Tank Coworking on Congress Street on Wednesday, Oct. 19. We’ll stream it live on the projector and offer some free food.

This time, we’ve also decided to add a little extra support to those who need it.

We’re teaming up with Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, which will bring nine therapy kittens to the party for anyone who needs to take a break from the political slugfest. (Kittens tend to make most things better.) If you fall in love with one, the group will have adoption surveys you can fill out.

The party starts at 8 and wraps up at 11. If you’re interested in coming, please reserve a free ticket here.

Oh, and please leave your dog at home, just to be safe.

(Bangor Daily News)

 

Character study

So AP could have headlined the Creation, but was beaten by the One Great Wire Editor.

Q. Is there an AP standard for the approximate length of a headline? – from Warrensburg, Mo. on Mon, Oct 03, 2016

A. AP stories carry two headlines for clients’ varying needs %u2013 a short one with no more than 60 characters and a longer, or extended, one with a maximum of 94 characters.

(AP’s Ask the Editor)

Parallel Verses
New International Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

New Living Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

English Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 

New American Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

King James Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

Holman Christian Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

International Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the universe.

 

NET Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

New Heart English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

GOD’S WORD® Translation
In the beginning God created heaven and earth.

 

JPS Tanakh 1917
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

New American Standard 1977
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

Jubilee Bible 2000
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

King James 2000 Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

American King James Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

American Standard Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

Douay-Rheims Bible
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.

 

Darby Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

English Revised Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

Webster’s Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

World English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 

Young’s Literal Translation
In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth —

 

How to write a lede

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(As it started out after the decision was announced. Doesn’t tell the reader much.)

 

WASHINGTON — TheA short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(Deleting an unimportant detail, and adding a slightly less unimportant detail.)

 

WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(Aha. Now we see why it’s important, in 14 more words.)

 

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to reconsider a challenge to President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the United States.

(As it’s confusingly blurbed on Google; that can be read as, “Challenge rejected again, plan goes through.”)

 

WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(As it now appears on the Times site.)

(New York Times, Google and NewsDiffs)

 

This and that

Is there anything that alcohol can’t do?

 

In August, Washington Post Managing Editor Cameron Barr and his fellow senior editors decided to do something about a problem that had been niggling at them for some time:

Articles were becoming too long, often for no good reason.

“We were seeing too many pieces that were in the mid-range of their ambition and their success — coming in at 60, 70 inches of copy,” Barr said. “We were seeing the same thing in a number of blogs, where pieces were just too long, and we felt as though editors were not applying the necessary discipline and rigor in how these pieces were being handled on the desk.”

The solution? A newsroom-wide initiative to cut down on editorial flab, Barr said. Since the middle of August, he’s asked Post’s department heads to take responsibility for articles longer than 1,500 words online or 50 inches in print. Bylines, captions, headlines and subheadings don’t count.

The idea, Barr says, is to “promote a sense and awareness of responsibility” among reporters and editors that stories shouldn’t be long for length’s sake.

Barr hasn’t crunched the numbers on cumulative story length since the initiative went into place, but he’s noticed more pieces coming in at just under the 1,500-word benchmark.

The senior editor who runs the copy desk produces a list of stories that go over the line, which Barr keeps an eye on. But there are no consequences for going over — just the occasional revision for a piece that is deemed “unnecessarily long.”

“What we want to do is make the writing better,” Barr said. “We’re not interested in punishing people. It’s not a data-driven enterprise. It’s a quality-driven enterprise.”

There are, however, rewards for coming up short. Editor-reporter duos who turn in a front-page enterprise story under 1,000 words are awarded the “Brevity Cup,” a distinction that comes with drinks out with a managing editor. The first winners, reporter Ann Marimow and editor Mary Pat Flaherty, won for a front-page story about a court battle over a D.C. gun ban and will soon be treated at The Jefferson, an old Post haunt.

(Poynter)

 

Thirteenth Amendment latest

Journalists at Honolulu’s Civil Beat have probably gotten used to the platinum-haired man who comes in twice a week, parks himself and his laptop in an open common area of the newsroom, speaks up with questions and offers context now and then.

That’s Ron Hochuli.

He’s the intern.

He’s also 72.

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Both he and the newsroom are figuring out how a retired community member with stints in banking, education, philosophy (he was a Catholic monk for a bit) and even a stab at local politics can bring that experience to an internship that benefits all of them.

If it works out, they’ll launch a new program called Kupuna Fellows.

“Kupuna in Hawaii means revered elders,” said Patti Epler, Civil Beat’s editor and general manager. “It’s a very common word here.”

But a retiree scoring an internship in an unfamiliar field is a very uncommon arrangement (unless you’re in Hollywood).

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Hochuli, who spent 25 years managing money at Merrill Lynch, has a tremendous work ethic, Simmons said, has taken notes at two city council meetings and has learned to shoot video. He’s digging into affordable housing issues and brings insights into the newsroom that aren’t already there.

“It’s that layer of expertise and senior experience built on a lifetime in the private sector that he’s bringing to bear on our coverage,” Simmons said.

And benefits for the newsroom are benefits for the community, too, Epler said.

“We’ll have a richer, deep understanding of the issues, and we’ll be able to pass that on to readers.”

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Simmons thinks places such as Florida or Arizona where many retire to might benefit from this kind of newsroom/retiree collaboration.

Hochuli thinks other retired professionals might have something to offer, too.

“It doesn’t cost Civil Beat money, yet you’re going to have different life experiences looking at things,” he said.

Oh.

(Poynter)