Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Unhappy with ‘the media’? Then support real, good journalism

attack-the-media

Image courtesy of a news publication to which I subscribe.

Are you fed up with “the media” and all its liberal/conservative/insert-negative-adjective-based-on-your-personal-worldview bias? Are you utterly disturbed that Donald Trump may well be our next president because of people like this profiting off “fake news” sites? Or are you relieved Hillary wasn’t elected despite a constant barrage of “media bias in her favor”?

Then do something about it. Instead of simply complaining about “the media,” support real, good journalism, which is a cornerstone of any successful democracy.  Here are just a few suggestions on how to do that:

-Support a local newspaper or media organization, not just national orgs like NYT or WaPo, through a subscription. (After all, all national stories start out as local stories somewhere.)

-Be a responsible consumer/sharer. Always, ALWAYS check the sources of the story (both the website itself, and the people/organizations to which information in the story is attributed) before plastering it all over social media. If it’s not real, good journalism, don’t share it.

-Be aware of your own confirmation bias and question it whenever possible. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t mean it’s not true, and just because you agree with someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it’s a fact. I personally avoid sites like HuffPo because I know they have a liberal bent, and I would be tempted to just agree with what they publish without questioning it. It can be hard, but try not to only consume content that reaffirms your existing beliefs.

-Make consuming investigative journalism a priority. It takes longer than skimming a newsletter or Twitter or watching a two-minute segment on CNN, but you’ll have a much more nuanced understanding of the issue.

-In that same vein, I personally also avoid 24-hour cable news all together. The need to fill airtime, along with the use of soundbites and the constant punditry, is a disservice to journalism and the people it’s supposed to serve.

That’s just a handful of suggestions I came up with off the top of my head after a friend asked me on Facebook. I’m sure other journalists have more, and I certainly welcome those suggestions.

Because here’s the thing. Journalists, like you, are people doing their jobs. Also like you, they expect, and deserve, to be paid for doing that job. But when people consuming the service they provide expect to get that service for free instead of paying for a subscription, or use online ad blockers, or claim to be interested in investigative stories and “good” news, but actually only click on fluff and “bad” news instead, it stifles the sources of revenue needed to pay  journalists to do their jobs — and to do their jobs well. When revenues decline, the higher-ups employing these journalists order layoffs to keep the company somewhat profitable. The survivors are then expected to do more good journalism with fewer resources. This, of course, is a logical fallacy, so the quality of work produced by the organization declines, and even fewer consumers are likely to pay for what they perceive to be a sub-par service.

I’m sure you can see how this story ends.

You have the power to change that ending though. Support real, good journalism. Clearly, our democracy needs it more than ever.

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‘Be an encourager, not a critic’ (You *probably* won’t end up in prison for it)

I came across this quote on Pinterest yesterday that really resonated with me:

Encourager

I’m an editor at a local newspaper, which has no shortage of critics. Mocking the town rag is a cherished pastime in many places. In fact, if you’ve ever come across someone who has only glowing reviews for their local paper, I’d like to meet them, so I can thank them for not making me feel like a stupid, worthless idiot who should just quit now and join a traveling clown brigade … because I made a typo.

Anyone who goes into journalism quickly learns that this comes with the territory and grows the thick skin required to deflect the gratuitous naysaying, which also prevents us from curling into a ball in the shower every morning and blubber-crying before we have to go back into the office and do it all again.

But, as I’m sure is the case in any industry, sometimes it can be hard not to get sucked down into the hole of negativity yourself. And a lot of the time, we are our own worst critics.

This quote was a good reminder that though I can’t control what others do or say, I can choose to rise above the criticism and offer encouraging words instead. (Of course, there’s always the time and place for honest, constructive criticism, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be thoughtfully delivered.)

In fact, I liked this so much, I wrote it on the bathroom wall at my salon yesterday.

OK, that sounds weird. Let me explain! The bathroom walls are covered with that chalkboard paint, and they provide chalk to encourage people to write inspiring things. At least, I hope that’s what it was all about. They’d recently erased older quotes that I swear were there before, so mine was the only quote, and the salon wasn’t very busy yesterday, so if I wasn’t supposed to do that, they are totally going to know it was me, and I could be under arrest for graffiti crimes at any moment.

So, that’s my little spiel for the weekend (and your heads up that I might soon be blogging from jail, which I imagine involves inscribing posts into the wall with a shiv, inevitably delaying publication.)

Happy Sunday!

Your reckless abuse of the Oxford comma is furthering the demise of the English language

Oxford comma-nistas around the world are having a heyday over a recent push alert sent by Sky News, which they believe is the end-all, be-all argument in favor of their precious punctuation mark.

Comma

Now, let’s be clear: The Oxford comma is necessary in this “sentence” as it’s written. Obviously, there are some pretty serious implications without it. However, this whole “sentence,” if you can even call it that, could be rewritten for clarity, and we would not have been subjected to all this nonsense in the first place. The Oxford comma-nistas would never suggest that though!

See, the purpose of a comma when used in a list is to replace the word “and.” When you use an Oxford comma in a list of three or more items, it’s redundant. You’re essentially writing “and and.” And that’s just silly.

Let me spell it out for you using another famed Oxford comma-nista example: Instead of saying “We invited the strippers and JFK and Stalin,” you substitute “and” with commas. “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.”

See how I used the Oxford comma there? Because it’s necessary for clarity. Without it, one could infer the writer is saying JFK and Stalin are strippers. Better yet, you could just rewrite the sentence to read “We invited JFK, the strippers and Stalin.” Because what kind of red-blooded American puts strippers before JFK, anyway?

(JFK. JFK may have put strippers before himself.)

I’m certainly not for an outright ban of the Oxford comma. I just ask that people tasked with the glorious responsibility of writing sentences pause to think about whether it’s necessary instead of blindly inserting it. Because if you can’t make that distinction, do you really have any business writing sentences in the first place? Especially those involving world leaders and strippers.

I mean, have you been on the Internet lately? Couldn’t we all benefit from everyone taking a moment to consider whether their sentences could be written more clearly?

And Oxford comma-nistas, let me ask you: With the current state of the English language, do you really want more people paying less attention to appropriate punctuation use? Do you want society to inflict upon your precious comma the same fate that has befallen the poor semi-colon? Just scattering it throughout sentences from time to time, showing no courtesy for its intended use? Do you really have so little respect for a punctuation mark you claim to love? HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?!

If you continue your misguided crusade, before you know it all the written word will consist of is emoticons and Oxford commas:

SmileConfused, Loser, and Dizzy. LOL!

So, knowing what the future holds, do you still want to continue on your quest? Let’s take a quick poll:

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If your answer is still yes, fine. But just know you’ll be on the wrong side of history.

I demand a correction!

We were going through some old photo albums at my grandma’s house this weekend, and I came across this clipping from the publication for which I currently happen to work:

Correction

Yep, that second graf is a blurb announcing the birth of yours truly in the June 13, 1985, edition of the Great Falls Tribune, two weeks after I was born. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s what I thought, too, until I noticed … the error.

OK, “error” is not exactly accurate. It’s really just a typo. A typo made back in the day when reporters still click-clacked away on an old-timey machine called a “typewriter” and could not even imagine the simple convenience of hitting the backspace key to erase an error. During the era when they measured copy with pica poles and laid out the paper using “paste ups.” Whatever that means. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Check facts. They may have used computers by the ’80s … In which case, UNACCEPTABLE!)

But the irony of a proper grammar/spelling/punctuation enthusiast finding a typo more than 28 years later in her own birth announcement — published in the very paper for which she works, where she started her journalism career as a copy editor — was not lost on me.

So this morning, I strolled into the morning news meeting with other editors and reporters, slapped the clip down on the table in front of the city editor and demanded a correction. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a copy editor, so I mainly received puzzled looks at first regarding the “error” I wanted corrected.

“Do I look like somebody’s DAUG-ter to you people?!?!?” I bellowed. “DO I?”

Most people caught on at this point, and we all had a good laugh. I was then reminded that we run corrections for factual errors, not typos. (Because let’s face it, with shrinking staffs and newshole, there’s simply not enough room to publish corrections for all the typos papers make these days … ba-du-dum-ching!)

I figured I’d give it a shot though. Maybe I’ll even write the correction myself and try to slip it in. I owe it to all the remaining copy editors out there to try, at least.

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