Because I felt like it, that’s why

Spare the reader the throat-clearing and get on with it. Write in a way to pique the reader’s interest; the reader doesn’t, and shouldn’t, give a rap about your interests, except as they affect the reader’s interest. If FedEx moved freight according to the principles of writing espoused by the ombud, there would be nothing but brown trucks on the road.


Readers of this blog may know that I’m particularly interested in the situation involving James Risen, a Times investigative reporter, who is at risk of going to jail to protect a confidential source from his 2006 book, “State of War.”

(New York Times)


This and that, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America.

O.K., I know that was kind of abrupt.

Then why did you say it, so that we all spilled our breakfast orange juice and ran screaming into the street?

But I wanted to get the central point out there right away, because discussions of Amazon tend, all too often, to get lost in side issues.

Oh. Okay. Just remember, if you write a column and get the central point out there right away, you risk losing your column-writing license.

(Paul Krugman in the New York Times)


The less things change, etc.

The Washington Post will begin offering a weekly print edition featuring the best national and international news from The Post. The 24-page, color tabloid publication will include local advertising and Washington Post content printed and distributed by partner newspapers through a separate subscription as an added benefit to subscribers.

The weekly publication will complement partners’ daily newspapers with a selection of The Washington Post’s best journalism, including coverage of politics, policy, national and world events, lifestyle, and the arts along with a wide range of commentary.

(Washington Post)

In April 1841, Greeley set himself on the path to national prominence and power when he launched the New York Tribune. The Tribune was multifaceted, devoting space to politics, social reform, literary and intellectual endeavors, and news. It was very much Greeley’s personal vehicle. An egalitarian and idealist, Greeley espoused a variety of causes. He popularized the communitarian ideas of Fourier, and invested in a Fourier utopian community at Red Bank, New Jersey. He advocated the homestead principle of distributing free government land to settlers, attacked the exploitation of wage labor, denounced monopolies, and opposed capital punishment.

Assisted by a talented and versatile staff, a number of whom were identified with the Transcendentalist movement, Greeley made the Tribune an enormous success. It merged with the Log Cabin and New Yorker, expanded its staff and circulation throughout the 1840s and 1850s, and by the eve of the Civil War had a total circulation of more than a quarter of a million. This number, however, vastly understated the paper’s influence, as each copy often had more than one reader. The weekly Tribune was the preeminent journal in the rural North.

(Tulane University)



It just doesn’t look right





We’ll keep our old name, thanks.


This and that

Bob Kaiser, still at it, still telling people off.

When The Brookings Institution asked Robert Kaiser to write an essay about the state of journalism, they asked that the last section include some solutions.

“And I had to tell them when I was finished that there would be no such section,” said Kaiser, who worked for more than 50 years at The Washington Post and retired in February. Kaiser is also the author of several books, including “The News About The News.” His essay for Brookings, which came out Thursday, is entitled “The Bad News About the News.”



This and that

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston time capsule dating to 1901 contained letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, political campaign buttons and a presidential message on U.S. foreign relations, archivists said Wednesday.


Elizabeth Roscio, archivist for the Bostonian Society, judged the materials that were tightly packed into the box to be in remarkably good overall condition, which she credited to the capsule being tightly sealed to prevent any deterioration or water damage.

Some details will apparently remain under wraps a bit longer, however, including the contents of a letter that was sealed into a plain brown envelope that read: “A Message to Posterity from the daily newspapers at City Hall.”

The letter is believed to be a missive to future generations written by a group of Boston journalists. A spokeswoman for the society said it is trying to determine the safest way to open the envelope without damaging the letter.

Why not ask the guys in the pressroom if it’s okay to read the letter? They’re probably the ones who wrote it. (And it probably says “We want a raise” or “Don’t trade Ruth.”)


Really Stoopid Science

Here’s one: What’s dumb and runs a network?

No Joke: Astronomers Say Alien

Planet Resembles Uranus

Let the grade-school jokes begin: Astronomers say they have detected the first known Uranus-like planet circling an alien star. The exoplanet is part of a double-star system that’s 25,000 light-years from Earth, known as OGLE-2008-BLG-092L. Its presence was detected using a method known as microlensing, which takes advantage of the light-bending effect of massive stars to magnify faraway objects.

The newfound planet, reported by Ohio State University’s Radek Poleski and his colleagues, is four times as massive as Uranus (heh, heh), and orbits at a similar distance (about 19 times farther away from its primary parent star than Earth is from the sun). Planets with masses in that range have been detected before, but not that far out. Ohio State’s Andrew Gould, a co-author of the research paper appearing online in The Astrophysical Journal, said in a news release that the alien Uranus may help explain how our own solar system’s ice giants ended up where they are:

(NBC News)


After many a summer, etc.

On the one hand, Ebola. On the other, some folks have figured out the secret to longevity.

October of 1864 was a busy month for the North Georgia community my family lived in and where I continue to live 150 years later.

(Emerging Civil War)


Breathless, deathless, sneering prose

If you’re Vanity Fair, then a black man not eligible to attend your celebrity parties must be unevolved, no better than a cannibal, and certainly not up to the intellectually demanding work of knocking out a victim and grabbing his fiddle.


The Stradivarius Affair

It isn’t every day that a street criminal—a high-school dropout with two felony convictions—is accused of stealing a centuries-old violin worth as much as $6 million. But nothing about the heist of the Lipinski Stradivarius, which galvanized the music world last winter, was normal, or even logical


Looking at it one way, there was a certain twisted creativity to it.

It just isn’t every day that a high-school dropout and twice-convicted felon, your basic street criminal, as he was described, is the alleged mastermind of a crime that no one in law enforcement the world over had ever quite seen. Maybe it wasn’t the crime of the century, but it definitely was the crime of the century in Milwaukee. The city, known for beer, bratwurst, the Brewers, and frighteningly large portions at German restaurants, had never been a hotbed of headlines. But this made national and world news not seen since the days of the city’s own serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.


Today’s deep thinking

There’s no cure for Ebola. Hopefully one is in the works. Currently, the best way to not die from Ebola is not getting it.

From USA Today, in a story on the best stock-market picks if you want to be an Ebola-savvy investor. The headline was changed (hat tip: Jim Romenesko) from “How you can profit from Ebola,” which was an accurate summary of the story, to the anodyne and ambiguous “stocks involved with Ebola.”


Veggie fever

Couldn’t decide whether to file this with “really bad puns” or “really bad writing, in general.” It appears that the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the First Lady of the United States may be having unspeakable congress with a biennial herb of the mustard family. Really, Michelle, don’t you know it’s an election year?


Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 1.26.36 PM


In her latest effort to promote healthful eating, Michelle Obama has managed to create a viral sensation using the video app Vine, and a turnip.

The first lady posted a six-second video of herself dancing with a turnip to the White House Vine account. And the best part? She’s dancing to DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What.”

The video was a response to President Obama impersonator Imman Crosson who used Vine to ask the president, “How many calories do you burn every time you ‘turn up’?!”

In case you’re wondering what “turn up” means, the Urban Dictionary lists the definition as “getting loose, being wild and potentially engaging in sexual activity with members of the opposite gender (or the same gender if that’s what you’re into).”

In Obama’s video, she holds the turnip, looks in the camera and asks “Turn up for what?” Then she dances with the turnip like no one is watching.


This and that

Because the Guardian couldn’t resist a title like that.

Dan Hickey, the Telegraph Media Group executive who signed off on the deal to serialise Hilary Mantel’s short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, has left the company.

As TMG’s “general manager of lifestyle”, he was on a contract rather than on staff. However, he has left despite his contract still having several months to run.

Hickey, an American, found himself embroiled in controversy last month when the Daily Telegraph’s weekend editor, Ian MacGregor, opposed the serialisation on the grounds that it would upset readers.

Although TMG had paid a substantial, but unspecified, sum for the serial rights, it then decided not to run the agreed extract. The Guardian stepped in to do so instead.

(Roy Greenslade in the Guardian)


Page view

You will now have to go ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PRINTED PAGE to find out where to find everything you used to find in the paper by turning the pages, or used to go to directly anyway because it was always anchored in the same spot. Well, explanatory journalism. …

“Change is always good. Sometimes.”

You will notice Sunday, Oct. 26, as you buy your copy of the News-Herald at your favorite convenience store or have it delivered to your home that it has a different look. Boy, will it ever. And we hope you will enjoy it.

But this new look is more than just a pretty face. At its core, the redesign is meant to make the newspaper more useful to you.

You’ll find more quick bites of news and more ways for you to interact with us. Page A1 has been re-imagined as a guide to start your week. There will be a mix of news for those with just a little time to spend with us alongside the longer stories for those who have more time to engage. Comprehensively, the type of story you’ll find in the newspaper is changing. As more people use digital sources to find out “what” has happened, the printed edition becomes the place to learn “why” it happened. Look for broader, more explanatory stories as well as for more analysis and commentary.

The index of where to find your favorite features will now be on a line across the bottom of A1. Yes, this will take a little practice, but it’s worth it!

The appearance of the paper will change to adopt a cleaner, more modern typography. And our nameplate has been redesigned to accommodate more dynamic summaries of stories we are carrying elsewhere in the paper.

So after you check it out, let us know what you think. Email your thoughts to Editor Thomas Celona at We welcome your comments, thoughts and suggestions. After all, we are here to bring you the best product we can and your help is part of the process.

We thank you.

(Perkasie [Pa.] News-Herald)


Bucket, list

The past summer witnessed the Ice Bucket Challenge going viral on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of the Twitter. Following in its path more recently is the Book List Challenge.

The meme asks Chinese social media users to list the top 10 books that have exerted the greatest influence on their lives, and then nominate online friends to do the same.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Book List Challenge is a drive that was first started by a foreign charity on Facebook and then swept the Chinese Internet.

The challenge started on Sina Weibo on Sept 5, when writer-translator Fang Bolin listed his top 10 books.

Two days later, Hong Kong writer Liao Weitang followed suit, and as comments to his post soon snowballed to the hundreds, the challenge began picking up.


The Book List Challenge, however, has failed to make as big a splash as the Ice Bucket Challenge did.

(Ecns, China)

Who would want a bucket of books dumped on his head? Bonus: One poster included Animal Farm and 1984 on her list. Those, definitely, are books you want to read in China just before you die.



Team work

In Mao’s China, said the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Escape From Red China, there was a rat problem.  So the Party decreed that everyone in China catch rats. (People who were well-0ff hired poorer people to catch the rats, which were delivered gift-wrapped.) I always supposed that with the money Mao saved not having to hire rat catchers himself (I didn’t know for sure; this was a condensed book, remember) he was able to equip more soldiers to occupy Tibet.

Mao is history. I don’t know about the rats. However, creating a dedicated corps of  rat catchers is still frowned upon. (Presumably the wealthier students can hire their own copy editors.)

Seeking Full-Time Copy Editors for Team Tuesday

Copy editing could be its own, full-time position in the newsroom. If we could have a team of people dedicated to making sure our scripts are accurate, conversational and catchy then my job as a producer would be much easier. If only wishing made it so.

News isn’t news if it isn’t accurate. Journalists can’t pride themselves on their work if it doesn’t reflect the newest facts we can verify.  A simple typo can dramatically throw off the anchor’s flow. Even though we are a broadcast outlet, spelling still matters. A lot of work goes into these newscasts and something as small as a vague sentence or outdated number reduces our credibility and reflects poorly on all of that hard work.

Since we have limited team members working throughout the day and copy editing still has to be done, every member of Team Tuesday gets to be a copy editor. Everyone from the assignment desk editors to the producers can copy edit scripts and every extra pair of eyes helps. We’re approaching the point in the semester where people are taking the initiative to copy edit without being asked. For me, this is an encouraging sign that the team is taking ownership of the newscast and is genuinely investing in its success.

My best advice for MJs, assignment editors, reporters and anyone in the newsroom copy editing scripts is to know the news. How can you expect to check what is written in a script if you don’t know what is going on yourself? A second suggestion is to read everything out loud. Actually, these two pieces of advice are requirements more than suggestions. It will make a noticeable difference in our newscast. If you are stumbling over big words or feel yourself getting bored then you know its time to punch up that script. We want people to watch our show and we can make it better by having our energetic anchors reading copy that sounds like our viewers are hearing the news from a friend. Simpler is always better and if a story takes a lot of explaining, maybe that information is better suited for a graphic than text.

Copy editing is something I would really like to challenge myself to work on. When I’m producing I find myself stretched so thin that copy editing gets pushed aside. Often, other duties such as writing scripts and ordering video take priority. This week I was just relieved that all the scripts were written before the show began. Thanks to the persistence of the studio crew we were able to catch and fix some spelling errors in OTS graphics before they went on air. Next week, my goal is to copy edit the scripts all the way through the end of the rundown.

(ATVN Annenberg TV News)



News writing

Bravo. Fred Vultee succinctly demonstrates what should be Journalism 101 everywhere: Tell the news. Don’t characterize the news.


Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 11.34.40 AM


(Headsup: The Blog)


Today’s mea culpa

For two weeks I have remained silent. And that was just plain dumb. Oh, not THE dumbest thing — not by a long shot. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done was without a second thought to give my approval to a cartoon — we all know which one — that has proven hurtful to so many people — people I care about. It has also proven hurtful to an institution I love and to colleagues who are blameless. *

And that, in the end, is what forces me to break this utterly uncharacteristic silence of mine.

It was last Thursday, the Herald’s State House reporter — as hard-working a guy as you’d ever want to have on the payroll — asked Gov. Deval Patrick a question about an American Civil Liberties Union report alleging police bias that was released earlier that day.

“Is the Herald asking me a question about race?” Patrick snapped at him. “The Herald about race? I don’t think you want to do that.”

The governor later apologized to our reporter adding, “I have very strong feelings about that cartoon. I’m sorry. It’s not personal to you.”

Well, governor I’m the one you want. I’m the one you should be snapping at. I’m the one who’s to blame — not my colleagues and not my paper.

* Oh, cheer up. You’re in charge of the editorials at the Boston Herald. So, third-dumbest.

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 11.25.06 AM



Usage corner

Lipkin, who has discovered more than 600 viruses over the course of his career, said this study turned up 18 new ones among the city’s massive Norwegian rat population.

(New York Daily News)

It’s Norway rat, just as there’s no such species as Canadian goose. We’ll discuss the abuse of massive another day.


Help wanted

To prove you’re really Business Insider material then take something dreadful and turn it into English, such as a published Business Insider piece.  Bonus: If the happy faces at that Dickensian workbench* don’t do it for you, then your heart is made of stone.

Business Insider is hiring a copy editor to cover two weekend shifts, with the possibility of also working weekday shifts in the future.

This is a part-time position that could turn into a full-time one.

This person will work in Business Insider’s New York City headquarters, editing copy on screen for grammar, punctuation, spelling, sense, and Business Insider style.

We are looking for someone who can work quickly and independently, typically without the luxury of querying reporters and other editors.

Attention to detail is necessary but so is speed.


  • Two years of copy-editing experience, preferably at a news website.
  • Familiarity with AP style, content-management systems, social media, and instant messaging.
  • Team player with a positive attitude and a sense of humor.
  • Work the Saturday and Sunday shifts, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
  • Pass a two-part editing test on page and on screen.

If interested, please apply HERE.

In addition, please complete this assignment and include it with your cover letter:

Choose an article on Business Insider that is in need of copy editing. Send along an annotated version of the article with your edits.

Competitive rate offered, dependent on experience.

Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 7.45.26 PM

Would “David Copperfield” or “Oliver Twist” or “Great Expectations” or  ”A Christmas Carol” or any of his other works ever have been written had the slave drivers in the lampblack factory told young Dickens, “Don’t think of it as exploitation. Think of it as open-plan architecture”?


Stoopid Science

Other than “will it work?” and “can we build it?” and “what happens to the planet when we turn it on?” the bugs are all worked out.

Researchers say they’ve developed a concept for a fusion reactor that could be built for less money than an equivalent coal-fired plant — but they acknowledge that they still have some questions to answer. For example, will the concept really work?

(NBC News)