Thursday, November 20, 2008

-30- Rock 'n' Roll

Two years ago on Nov. 30, I created this blog for the Ventura County Star’s Universal Desk. And this Nov. 30, five years after coming to work at The Star, will be my last day as an employee at the paper (My last day in the office is Nov. 21). I and 16 other newsroom colleagues (44 paperwide) have been laid off.

The past five years have been exciting, challenging, fun, hectic, rewarding, frustrating, interesting, tiring, exhilarating – I could go on, but copy editors hate too many adjectives. I’ve worked as a journalist for 27 years and I don’t yet know if my next job will be as a journalist.

To those who remain at The Star: It’s been a pleasure working with you. If I could give a bit of advice, it would be to compliment your colleagues more for jobs well done. Don’t let complaints and criticism be the only things co-workers hear about.

I read an interview with Ted Turner in Time magazine, and he said this: “You can’t always stay in the place where you’d like to be.” (He was referring to his marriage to Jane Fonda, but what the heck.) Anyway, to those who are leaving, my hope for you is that you find a new place where you’d like to be.

Feel free to keep in contact with me (job notices, employment tips, notes of support or just to say hi) by e-mail at patricia (at)

-30- Rock

(Thanks to graphic artist/editorial cartoonist Steve Greenberg for my caricature. Greenberg has been laid off as well.)

Note: I have been allowed to keep this blog up, although nothing else will be added to it after I leave.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

All a-Twitter

I came across an interesting post on a site called "The Next Newsroom Project." Chris O'Brien writes about "Ten (small) things you can do right now to reinvent your newsroom." We do a couple of these already, but others are worth considering. I liked the live online chat idea and the idea of everyone being on Facebook, with reporters promoting their stories there. You can read the entire piece here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lighthearted Font Humor

Hello, all. Yes, I know it's been quite some time since I posted anything. I was searching for something positive, uplifting, funny to post. At first, all I could find was gloom and doom: layoffs, buyouts, eliminating an entire copy desk, outsourcing copy editing to India. But I searched some more and I found a hilarious video on fonts. Not sure you can view and hear it from work, but give it a try. It's very funny. See the post below this one.

The Font Funnies

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where was the copy editor?

Originally uploaded by MarkDM
Mark Dodge Medlin, a former A1 designer at The Star and now on the copy desk at the San Diego Union Tribune, captured this hilarious sign at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We ar not a dyeing brede!

Well, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, tongue firmly in cheek (that's the one on his face), thinks the era of the copy editor is gone. He talks about their importance in the old days, back when copy editors worked on the stories of cigar-smoking, fanny-pinching reporters with such names as "Scoop" (not Zeke) who had that card that said "PRESS" stuck in their fedoras. I'll let W. explain his reason for saying "good riddance" to the copy editor. You must read Gene's story carefully from start to finish. (Cartoon by Eric Shansby)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'Wronged by a Thong?'

I saw a segment on the "Today" show this morning about a woman who is suing Victoria's Secret over a thong she purchased from the store. She says the metal decoration on the undergarment snapped off and injured her eye. The title running at the bottom of the screen was so funny I had to share it.

Wronged by a Thong?

Then I went searching online to see if I could find other headlines for this story. Here are many more:
Dinged by a G-string?
Woman sues Victoria's Secret over a thong 'malfunction'
What a thong and dance: Woman sues Victoria's Secret over G-string injury
Victoria's little secret lawsuit?
Granma injured by a thong! EWWWWWWWWW!
The thong did it

What headlines could you come up with for this story? Send them to me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

'Where's the Section on Copy Editors?'

Earlier this year, the fancy new Newseum opened in Washington, D.C. The Newseum is a tribute to the news industry. The New York Times' Lawrence Downes checked it out. He asked museum employees where the section on newspaper copy editors was. Turns out there was no section on copy editors. In his column, Downes pays tribute to copy editors. Here are a few excerpts:

Besides fixing grammar, punctuation and style and writing headlines and captions, he says, copy editors "also do a lot more. Copy editors are the last set of eyes before yours. They are more powerful than proofreaders. They untangle twisted prose. They are surgeons, removing growths of error and irrelevance; they are minimalist chefs, straining fat. Their goal is to make sure that the day’s work of a newspaper staff becomes an object of lasting beauty and excellence once it hits the presses."

He continues: "The copy editor’s job, to the extent possible under deadline, is to slow down, think things through, do the math and ask the irritating question."

His column talks about the evolving job of the copy editor. His entire column can be read here.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)

Seeing Red

Now here's a case where such a headline isn't so unrealistic or outlandish.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My "King" Is Leaving Newspapers

OK, so this has nothing to do with our Universal Desk. Instead, it's related to my universe so I felt like sharing it. After 35 years as a newspaper journalist, my husband, George Foulsham, is leaving newspapers for a job at UC Santa Barbara. George is also a big hockey fan (L.A. Kings specifically), and he was asked to write a blog item on his last day at the L.A. Daily News. It appears on the "Inside the Kings with Rich Hammond" blog, and George's item can be found here. (In the photo above, George is in a suite at Staples Center with his great niece, Allison.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Si Se Puede! Yes I Can! -- Leave The Star and Go Hollywood!

We said goodbye to page designer Nick Martinez on Friday. "Mr. Hollywood" is off to Variety, where he'll be a graphic designer. He bragged about how he'll get the opportunity to go to Cannes. (What graphics need to be produced there?)

John Moore told the story about how young Nick would come into his office with his Page 1 designs, which sometimes were a little bit different, and after John expressed some concern about whether the page would work, Nick just stood there ... and stood there, until John would sign off on the idea.

In the photo here, I caught Nick bringing one of his arms down and it looked so much like "Si Se Puede!" I couldn't help but use that as the headline.

Good luck, Nick! We'll miss you. Adios! Power to the Hollywood People!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Female Editor Speaks

I came across a blog called "Editrix." It's self-described as "A blog for editors, editors at heart, and anyone else who thinks grammar is hot."

It has two features I thought you might be interested in. The first is a new one for the site -- "(Least) Favorite Mistake" -- in which editors are asked what their most embarrassing mistake is. One copy editor tells her embarrassing tale when she didn't follow her own advice: that everyone needs an editor -- even an editor. You can read about it here.

The second feature is called "5 Questions With..." in which authors, editors and other journalists are asked the same five questions, such as "What punctuation mark are you fondest of?" and "If you weren't in your current line of work, what would you be doing instead?" You can find a few of the interviews here, and the rest of the interviewees are listed here.

Now it's your turn. Why don't you send me your answer to one of these questions, and I'll publish the responses. The question:

"If you weren't in your current line of work, what would you be doing instead?"

Please send me your responses. Thanks.

Welcome to the Universal Desk, Karen!

We have a new editor on the Universal Desk, Karen Gindick. Here's John's April 14 e-mail:

Subject: Karen Gindick

We are happy to announce that Karen Gindick has joined the newsroom as a copy editor.

Karen comes to us from the Los Angeles Daily News where she has held a number of positions during her tenure, including copy editor, copy desk chief, opinion page editor, wire editor, designer and assistant news editor.

She also taught editing, headline writing and design at USC. We are thrilled to have Karen join our desk.

She started today, so if you get a moment please go by and introduce yourself and welcome her to The Star.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

rich ramirez 1962-2007
Originally uploaded by hellvetica

Martin Gee, a designer at the San Jose Mercury News, writes on his Flickr site: "the last round of layoffs and buyouts really hurt me. i mean, each one does but this one especially. this place feels like a morgue. an abusive relationship. remnants and artifacts everywhere. empty cubicles. empty chairs. abandoned office equipment. goodbye emails. besides looking for a new job, this is a way for me to deal." The way he's dealing is to document the aftermath in images. His Flickr set of photos, called "reduction in force," can be seen here. The photo displayed here is from his set. It shows the empty nameplate for my friend, Rich Ramirez, who took his life a day after finding out his position was being eliminated. Martin adds a note, however, saying he wasn't trying to imply that this news caused Rich to do what he did (read his note with this photo for a full explanation). The photos are pretty dramatic, and having worked there for almost 6 years, I was saddened to see what the place is like now.

Martin's blog is here. Couldn't help but laugh at the photo at the top of his blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We Have Slogans!

I received some great ideas for possible slogans for the Universal Desk. Here they are:

From Tony Sin:
"When news breaks ... We fix it"
"Copy editors kick ass and take names accurately"

From Darrin Peschka:
As a fan of "Project Runway" my first slogan suggestion would be,
"Make it work"

My second would be:
"You're f-in kiddin' me"
Definitely more appropriate but probably not as couth. : )

From Rebecca Whitnall:
This isn’t original, as I saw it on a t-shirt (who knew there were copy editor t-shirts???) but I thought it was cute:
"To infinitives and beyond"

And from Steve Greenberg:
"Three times the work, for the same pay!"
"So much work, so many empty desks"

Which one is your favorite?

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Headline Heaven

Some headline writers delighted in the Eliot Spitzer scandal. (Darrin admitted she resisted the urge to use "Mr. Clean" in our headline.) I did a search of A1 headlines of papers in the greater New York area, and here are a few gems:

New York Daily News:
Niagara (Falls) Gazette:
Prostitution scandal may bring down governor
The Record (New Jersey):
'Mr. Clean' soiled
Spitzer in Bergen call-girl scandal
And a favorite, in the New York Post:
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews was interviewing a New York Daily News reporter today. He asked her if she had ever met those "guys in the green eye shades" who write those great tabloid headlines for her paper. He said he assumed they were guys. The reporter said no, she had never met them, but that they had "a rare skill." Guess we should take comfort in the fact that our reporters have met us. And we aren't all old guys wearing green eye shades! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Need a Desk Slogan!

ACES member Kathy Schenck, at her blog, Words to the Wise, proposed a contest to pick a slogan for her Milwaukee Journal Sentinel copy desk. Here are some of that copy desk's ideas as well as slogans proposed by others:

"You write it, we right it."
"We delete in serving you."
"It's way too late to fix this."
"To write is human, to edit is divine."
"Nobody knows the garbles we've seen."
"My typo people."
"Word woes loom; betterment eyed."
"Edit free or die."
"It's never banal to be anal."
"The less hed, the better."
"The first cut is the sweetest."
"This chop shop makes a fortune in stolen participles."
"Surgery first, liquid anesthetics later."
"The scene of a brutal slotter."
"My kid can out-edit your honor student."
"We save more butts than ‘Baywatch.'"
Read the rest of her entry here.

Now, what about us? Do you have ideas for a Ventura County Star Universal Desk slogan? Send them to me and I'll post them.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dynamo Departs

On Wednesday, we said goodbye to News Editor Carole Ferguson, who's heading to Redding (hey, that rhymes) to be managing editor. There were speeches, laughs and lots of stories. Carole displayed a schedule that showed there were 26 people on the Universal Desk when she first started at The Star. With her departure, we are down to 17. Of course, you could say we are down to 14, since she did the work of four people. The desk presented Carole with a lovely parting gift: a basket chock-full of goodies that represent the grand county she is leaving: Ventura County. She received county fair souvenirs, a framed photo, a Star newsrack piggy bank, even a postcard of Camarillo. At the end of the night, Amanda presented Carole with a going-away page.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Wish Granted

Santa brought us a present just in time for Christmas: a new news editor. Here's John Moore's e-mail to the staff:

Subject: News editor
Joe and I are pleased to announce our appointment for news editor of The Star: Darrin Peschka and Amanda Reiter.

We asked Darrin and Amanda to serve as co-news editors, and they have accepted. We know they will make an excellent management team, working together to run our desk.

They are excellent journalists and we're excited about the contribution we know they will make to The Star. We hope you take a moment to congratulate them. They have both earned this promotion through their efforts, and we look forward to their continued growth as journalists and managers.

-- John

Darrin and Amanda took some time to pose for their official co-News Editor portraits (just kidding!) and they are shown above and below. It may give you some indication of their management style.

Congratulations, Darrin and Amanda!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hey, Mistakes Happen!

Once again this year, Regret the Error has published its list of the top media errors and corrections. I always enjoy reading these. Here are a few gems I've copied and pasted from the page (a link to the whole column is at the bottom):

New York Daily News:
A headline in Monday’s Daily News, “He regrets his role in ‘postal’ vid,” implied that Richard Marino, the subject of a YouTube video, was sorry for an incident in December at a Brooklyn post office. Marino, in fact, is not sorry. The News regrets the error.

Typo of the Year:
The Houston Chronicle, like just about every other North American media outlet, spent a lot of time reporting on Anna Nicole Smith this past year. In attempting to explain her, um, humble origins, the paper gave itself a measure of comeuppance. And that’s what makes it the typo of the year.

A photo caption in the paper read:
“When Redding, a longtime scout for Playboy, discovered Smith, the model could barely right a sentence…”
Who’s illiterate now?

Runner Up:
Reuters, the reigning back-to-back champ in this category, didn’t win but did come in second place by calling the Muttahida Quami Movement the “Muttonhead Quail Movement.”

Daily Telegraph (UK):
APOLOGY: In Friday’s article on Liz Hurley’s wedding it was wrongly stated that the actress is holding a pheasant shoot on the Sunday after the ceremony. Game shooting is of course illegal on Sundays and the pheasant season ended on Feb 1. We apologise for the error and accept that if any shooting is to be done it will be by the paparazzi, who have no season and do not observe the Sabbath.

Portland Press Herald:
A story on Page B4 on Wednesday about foraging for edible mushrooms contained a photo of amanita muscaria, which is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom. It was a copy editor’s error.

Best Meta Correction, The Guardian:
We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and clarifications column on September 26, page 30.

Most Puzzling Correction, The New Scientist:
Several readers complain that the dancing cow illustrating Feedback, 20 January, appears to have six teats. It was of course drawn as seen by an intoxicated fellow dancer.

Monterey County Herald:
Monterey X-rated movie director Inkyo Volt Hwang’s nickname was Wanker Wang. An article on page A1 Saturday misspelled the nickname.

You can see the full report here, which includes people's comments at the bottom that correct Regret the Error's writer for his mistakes!

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

I came across a couple of headlines earlier this month that struck me -- one for how clever it was and the other that seemed sensationalistic. Both, once again, come from the L.A. Times.

On the Times Obituaries page on Dec. 13 was this headline:

Ike Turner, 1931-2007
Rock pioneer
was known for
abusing wife
Tina Turner

I think that Turner was first and foremost a musician and singer, but this headline downplays that and plays up the abuse angle. Yes, the abuse was a significant, much publicized part of his life, but it seemed odd to me to have that be the main headline. I guess I would have preferred to see information like that in a deck. I think another reason this headline struck me was that it appeared in the L.A. Times. It seemed out of character for them. Now, if I had seen this in the L.A. Daily News, I wouldn't have felt quite the same way (though I would still think that angle was overplayed).

On the same day, the Times' front page had main art and a story about a real estate agent in Stockton who takes prospective buyers on a free Repo Home Tour, going by bus to see foreclosed homes they might want to scoop up. In one column, four lines was this fabulous headline:

A magical
tour in


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Smiling Stars

As part of a challenge to ourselves, the photographers in a group I'm a part of are photographing a portrait a day for the month of December. Finding subjects to make this task a reality means I've needed to ask co-workers if they'd pose for me. Thought I'd share in a collage four of the portraits I've done of Star staffers. Thank you to them for being such good sports! Anyone want to be a portrait subject for me this month? I'd appreciate it!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Big Girls DO Cry

The news came last Thursday that Carole Ferguson is leaving us. Assistant News Editors Amanda Reiter, left, and Darrin Peschka reacted to that news with tears and screams; even Santa couldn't console them (nor could the half-price coffee the next day soothe them). (ANE Alicia Hoffman was too upset to visit with Santa). Here's the e-mail from John:
Joe and I are sad to announce that Carole Ferguson will be leaving The Star. Carole has accepted the position of managing editor of the Redding Record Searchlight. Her last day here will be right after the first of the year. This is a wonderful opportunity for her and we are excited for Carole, and know she will make an excellent managing editor in Redding. Their gain is definitely our loss. Carole started with us as a copy editor in 1999 and became news editor in 2003. She manages the largest staff in the newsroom while spending most of her time each day working hands-on on tomorrow's paper and making sure we make deadline. Silas Lyons, editor in Redding, which is the other Scripps-owned paper in California, had this to say about Carole in announcing the appointment to his staff: "She has a genuine commitment to community journalism and a passion for what we do. She also understands exactly what it takes to get the paper out every day. Those of you who interviewed her had great feedback. ... I'm absolutely thrilled to have her coming on board in such a critical role for our newsroom. I think you'll find her to be an able leader and a valuable colleague." I know she will provide excellent counsel to Silas, a young, dynamic editor (I gave him his first job out of college ... a few years ago). Sometime between now and her departure we will squeeze in an appropriate good-bye. --John

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Hit and Miss

I came across a couple of headlines recently in the L.A. Times that amused me, one in a good way and the other in a bad way.

In the Times Business section on Nov. 15 was this head:

Uncertainly pulls down markets

Major indexes fall after Macy's lowers a sales forecast and retail spending shows only a slight rise in October.

I was puzzled when I read this. At first I thought "Uncertainly" was the name of some company. After I read the lead, however, I could see that what the headline should have said was: Uncertainty pulls down markets.

The California front on Nov. 13 had a story about the iconic LAX restaurant, Encounter, reopening after repairs and renovations. The main head said:

George Jetson,

party of 4, your

table is ready

Space Age dining returns to LAX as iconic eatery is patched up. One delighted customer: a 5-year-old named Jet.

I really loved these headlines. They're fun, and along with the four photos used (2 on the cover, 2 inside), they draw the reader in. In fact, the lead of the story was nothing special; it wasn't fun and playful like the headline. But at least the headline drew me in. I would love to see us loosen up and do more of these in the news pages, when appropriate to the story, of course. Now, you can beam me back up to my copy desk.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Writing 'Heds' Isn't as Easy as It Might Seem

Deborah Howell, the ombudsman for the Washington Post, writes of the power and perils of headlines. She quotes the Post's Editorial copy desk chief, Vince Rinehart, who says: "Perhaps the greatest challenge in copy editing is reading 1,000 sophisticated words on a complex topic and finding six words to tell the story and convey its nuance and tone, often with less than five minutes to do so." I'm not aware that our Universal Desk has written guidelines for headlines (when I was at the Dallas Morning News, I was on a committee to come up with a "mission statement" on the kind of headlines we were to write, and we ended up implementing it), but the Post does have such guidelines. Howell says The Post's stylebook states that headlines "must be accurate" and "capture the essence and tone of the story, as well as the most important element." Headlines should also "invite readers into the story. Use vivid words. Avoid headlinese . . . and deadening, bureaucratic language whenever possible. Headlines should be written in understandable, conversational English."'s Bill Walsh, The Post's National copy desk chief, listed many factors copy editors must keep in mind when writing headlines. Howell writes: "particularly important for Page One stories, (Walsh) said, is deciding whether to concentrate on the specifics of a story or on the bigger picture it might illustrate." Howell also writes about how page design figures prominently into the headline: For example, should there be a label? Does the story need a deck? Howell's column also goes into the differences when writing headlines on editorials and OpEd pieces. The ombudsman also says that even the good heads "often go unnoted except by the souls on the rim or by the slot." So since we're more likely to hear complaints rather than praise from readers about our headlines, perhaps we should be patting one another on the back more often. Nice head! You can read the entire column here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Ravishing Headline

The six-day-a-week Santa Barbara Daily Sound, which began publishing in March 2006, made a boo-boo in large display type on its Oct. 22 cover over its staff-written fire story. Oops! Look for this one to appear on Leno. To ravish: to seize and carry away forcibly. To rape (a woman). To transport with joy or delight. To ravage: To destroy violently; ruin.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Copy Editor: "Eliminating Fixed Costs"?

Last Friday, I posted an entry on the American Copy Editors Society's Discussion Board. I had read a Bloomberg article in which Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group detailed how it hopes to triple sales from its Internet sites by 2012. The president of MediaNews, Joseph Lodovic, said: "We have to find ways to grow revenue or become more efficient by eliminating fixed costs." He went on to say: "Why does every newspaper need copy editors? In this day and age, I think copy-editing can be done centrally for several newspapers." I found that to be an amazing comment. I raised that question on the ACES discussion board and invited responses. I said that in light of the fact that I had a loved one working at one of those papers, I would not post my own thoughts. My posting sparked comments and a number of postings on other people's blogs. John McIntyre, the Baltimore Sun's assistant managing editor for the copy desk (and former president of ACES), weighed in on his blog with this entry, titled "Just sack all the editors." Pam Robinson, founder and former president of ACES, wrote her take on her blog, "Words at Work." University of South Carolina journalism professor Doug Fisher issued his "Clarion call for copy editors" on the matter. And McIntyre links to an interesting article on "Grade the News" about the problems, including a destruction of credibility, that occurred when MediaNews papers in the Bay Area combined their copy desk operation. They're worth reading. Check them out.

Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough ...

Former Star staffer TJ Sullivan, in reaction to the news that the Albuquerque Tribune will be sold or closed, writes on his blog about a day nearly 13 years ago when the then-editor of the Tribune, Tim Gallagher, left the Tribune to come to The Star. Here are a few snippets:

"I worked for Gallagher at both The Trib and the Star, and was often advised by him to focus on what I could change, which was what the staff of The Tribune did best. ...

"Trib staffers didn't just look out their windows, they examined their own operation as aggressively as any. This was the culture during and after Gallagher. When I was a part of it, the staff questioned its bosses as aggressively as it did bureaucrats and business leaders. So when Gallagher decided to leave, and a corporate VP dropped by to make it official (and to introduce the new editor, Scott Ware), the staff fired away. People wanted to know if this was the beginning of the end.

"The matter was also addresed frankly in that December 30, 1994, story, which I pulled out to review this week and found the following Gallagher quote regarding the circulation situation:

"We're fighting an uphill battle here, the trend away from evening newspapers. I quit blaming myself for it. I went through the Stuart Smalley 12 steps. I'm doing what I can, we're putting out a good newspaper, everybody knows it's a good newspaper [SNIP ...] Don't get worked up about these numbers. This is still a very profitable business."

"Gallagher's departure was not the beginning of The Trib's end. It has continued to publish for the past 12 1/2 years since he left. And although the staff size has been considerably diminished during that time, along with circulation, The Trib's product has continued to be recognized with national awards.

"Quality, however, doesn't always sell."

You can read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

'Fake News Was My Day Job': Weekly World News Revisited

There's a funny piece in the Los Angeles Times Opinion pages today about a comedy writer (Mark Miller) who worked for Weekly World News. As previously mentioned, the paper is discontinuing publication in print form. Here are some snippets from his column:
"When my career as a stand-up comedian and sitcom staff writer started winding down, I took on a number of freelance comedy-writing jobs -- writing jokes for Jack-FM stations, for other comedians and for Cracked magazine. My Cracked editor went to work for the WWN and invited me to contribute stories. Before long, I had five or more stories in each issue. Fake news was my day job. Imagine my mother's pride: " 'France Makes Hanky Panky Mandatory' ... my son wrote that!" I was, at first, confused about whether I was supposed to write true offbeat news, general satire or complete fabrication. So I asked. The response was loud and clear: "complete fabrication." Yet each piece was written as if completely real. So when, for example, Bigfoot got married, launched his acting career and became involved with Kabbalah, each story got a dateline, quotes from "sources" and "experts" and followed a typical Associated Press structure. In fact, much of the original staff came from mainstream newspapers. The standard? It had to seem true. "Half the readers realize the stories are tongue-in-cheek; the other half believe they're all true," my editor explained. "You have to write the stories to satisfy both groups." ...While most of the supermarket tabloids constantly recycle one another's celebrity gossip and diet plans, the WWN went unashamedly for the bizarre, unbelievable and tasteless. For any creative writer, the gig was a gold mine. Inspiration was everywhere. One day I wondered just exactly how snug is a bug in a rug? Shortly thereafter, I sold "Researcher Determines Snugness of Bugs in Rugs" to the WWN. Photoshop was the graphic department's best friend. On their pages, Elvis lived, Bat Boy rode atop subway cars, and space aliens shook hands with world leaders. Explorers discovered Noah's ark, the Garden of Eden, Jesus' sandals and the world's fattest cat. They had just as much fun with the less spectacular news items. For one of mine, "African Tribe Worships Barbra Streisand's Nose," they created a gigantic stone statue of Streisand's head in profile to show off her famed schnoz and surrounded it with spear-toting natives in loincloths. ...One thing's certain -- waiting in line at the supermarket will be a lot less fun." You can read the full piece here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Are You Old Enough to Remember When ...?

Melinda Brown sends this along, a correction that ran in the New York Times. ... Also, this is belated, but thanks to John Weigle for the post on the Weekly World News. Now, for the NYT correction:

New York Times, July 30

An article on Thursday about the arraignment of three men in the shooting of two New York police officers, one of whom died, misstated the schedule set by a judge for a trial in the case. The trial is expected to begin by February, not by "Feb. 30. "
The error occurred when an editor saw the symbol "- 30 -" typed at the bottom of the reporter's article and combined it with the last word, "February." It is actually a notation that journalists have used through the years to denote the end of an article.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Elvis Sightings Expected to Plummet!

"The World's Most Reliable Newspaper" has died at the age of 28. The New York Times has passed away, you asked? Or perhaps The Wall Street Journal? Nope, it's the Weekly World News, that paper that has amused us at the checkout lines for years. Emil Steiner, a blogger, writes about its demise in the printed form. Starting on Aug. 27, the Weekly World News will only be available online. So in light of this shocking, amazing, earth-shattering news, Steiner decided to list his favorite headlines from the paper over the years and asked his readers to add their own. So here's a sampling of those gems you wish you could have written:

Man Poses as CPR Dummy To Meet Women

Mother Nature Endorses Gore for President

Astronomer Rebuked For Endless Staring into Space

Man Marries Computer -- Becomes Gigamist

Pit Bull Eats Mobile Home

200 ELVES LAID OFF! Santa moves operation to Honduras sweatshop




Chocaholic Mom Has Sugar-Coated Baby


Woman gives birth to baby rabbits

Hitler's Brain Found in Mayonnaise Jar


Gay Dinosaurs: the real reason they went extinct

Doctors Reattach Siamese Twins

Man searches for his own severed head


You can read the full blog item here. (George Bush photo by AP)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Headlines Headlines

I went outside today to get our two daily newspapers. As usual, Bella, our year-old Golden retriever, went to retrieve The Star (we taught her to retrieve The Star when she was just a pup, taking the reins from our beloved, now-deceased Golden retriever Bixby) and I went to grab the L.A. Times. Surprise! When we unfolded what we thought was the L.A. Times, we found that it was the New York Times. We're still not sure how that happened, but I did take the time to look at the paper.

I found something interesting. When I went to the jump page of a story, I saw that the headline on the jump page said virtually the same thing as the headline on the cover.
Here are some examples:
Cover of The Arts section:
Down by the Boardwalk, a Two-Ring Circus of Bands
Jump head:
of Bands
A1 head:
An Unlikely Adversary Arises
To Criticize Detainee Hearings
Jump head:
An Unlikely Adversary Arises to Criticize Hearings
Business Day cover:
Barbie Gets Another Accessory: an MP3 Player and More Stuff on Her Web Site
Jump head:
Barbie Gets Another Accessory: an MP3 Player and More Stuff on Web Site
Business Day cover:
Oops! ... They Did It Again
Defying Expectations, a Teen Pop Label Grows Up
Jump head:
Defying the Expectations of Critics and Rivals, a Teen Pop Label Grows Up

I don't know how long they've been doing this, but I began to wonder why they decided to do this. I came up with two possible reasons:

1. It's easier for the reader to find the jump of a story.
2. It's easier and quicker for the copy editor to duplicate the headline on the jump page.

If these are the reasons why they duplicate headlines, I'd say that both the reader and the copy editor benefit.

In these days when we are doing more with fewer people, is this something we'd want to consider? If the idea would be something that would make copy editors' jobs easier and more efficient but would negatively affect the reader, it wouldn't be worth considering. But when we are making things better for the reader while at the same time helping ourselves, why not consider it?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Have You Hugged a Journalist Lately?

I lost a special person recently. His name was Rich Ramirez. When I was a young copy editor with so much to learn at the San Jose Mercury News in the early 1980s, an enthusiastic, hard-working intern with a great smile came to work on the copy desk. Rich was fresh out of USC. Rich never left the Merc. He went on to hold a number of reporting and editing positions at the paper, the last 12 years as assistant to the executive editor. Just days after organizing a highly successful National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention and one day after learning there would be dozens more layoffs at the Merc and that his position would likely be eliminated, Rich apparently took his own life. We had kept in contact over all these years, including an e-mail a day before his death. My sympathies are with his wife and other relatives, as well as the "Mercury News family" that those of us who have worked there over the years have become a part of. I went to Rich's memorial service last week, and was amazed at the huge crowd of mourners. It was evident Rich had touched so many lives. The comments in this online guest book reinforce that. Rich and I shared a love for photography. He had wanted to know if I was coming to the conference so he could share photos from his three-week European vacation with me. Sadly, I wasn't able to attend. However, I was able to see some of his images in a slide show presentation that was shown at the service. I am so fortunate to have known him.

A number of stories have been written about him. I particularly enjoyed an opinion piece written by a friend of his, John Diaz at the San Francisco Chronicle. Here is an excerpt from that wonderful piece. You can read the entire article here.

Smooth-running conventions don't just happen. Behind every successful
convention are the volunteers who handle all the essential details. Behind every
effective band of volunteers is an organizer with a vision, a checklist and the
right blend of charm and persistence to cajole the troops.

At NAHJ that was Rich Ramirez, a 44-year-old executive assistant, from
the San Jose Mercury News.

In the weeks leading up to the convention, Ramirez was peppering his
colleagues around the country with e-mail requests, big and small. He sent
spreadsheets with detailed marching orders for volunteers. He made last-minute
pitches for editors to shake down their publishers for $1,500-a-hole
sponsorships for the charity golf tournament. He even sent out an appeal for a
baby sitter on behalf of a CNN producer.

The convention was a huge success and no one seemed to be having a
better time than Rich when I caught up with him at an opening-night reception.
As always, he was quick with a smile and quick with questions about how things
were going with my life and job.

Four days after the convention, Rich Ramirez was found dead in the backyard of his Livermore home, with a knife wound in his midsection. Police still suspect it was a suicide, by about the most painful and difficult method imaginable.

Those who knew Rich Ramirez could not say which was more inconceivable:
That he would take his life or that someone would want to hurt a man who
radiated such brightness and generosity. One could only speculate: Was it the
angst and uncertainty that has gripped the profession he loved? Or was it a
deeply personal pain that no one who thought they knew him ever recognized?

On Thursday, Rich was eulogized at a memorial service in San Jose. The
church was overflowing with family, friends, colleagues.

... One question came up, over and over, as his friends and colleagues
marveled at the size of the crowd and depth of sentiment at the memorial
service: "I wonder if he knew how much he was appreciated?"
I know what you're thinking about the Rich Ramirezes who bind the communities in your lives. Don't wait, don't assume they know. Tell them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Punctuation Infatuation: Life of a Newspaper Copy Editor

At the recent American Copy Editors Society conference, Bob Garfield of NPR's "On the Media" interviewed Merrill Perlman, director of copy desks at The New York Times. Here are a few excerpts:
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Now, at the risk of stereotyping, how would you describe a typical copy editor? What kind of people are they? [John Weigle -- typical copy editor? -- is pictured at right for illustration purposes only]
MERRILL PERLMAN: I'm not sure there is a typical copy editor. I think they share some common traits. They all share that love of language. They all share that desire to get it right. Sometimes it's an obsession to get it right, and that's not necessarily a good thing. They don't so much care about the public recognition, but they like to bitch about not having the public recognition, so they're a complaining bunch.
BOB GARFIELD: I must say [LAUGHS], over several decades copy editors have saved my sorry ass more times than I can really count. Literally I can't count them, because I don't remember a single episode. What I do remember is the few times that copy editors edited errors into my stories. ...
MERRILL PERLMAN: There's sort of an unwritten credo that you do not damage somebody else's work. That no one should be surprised to read something under their own byline. So, you know, when copy editors do edit errors in, I think they probably flog themselves more than a lot of reporters will flog themselves, because that's worse. Now, the flip side of that is all the catches that copy editors make that they're never recognized for.
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah. There are those.

You can read the entire transcript here.

A Star Is Born: The Slide Show

If you missed The Star's grand opening ceremonies recently, you might want to take a look at a musical slide show I created. NOTE: You won't be able to view it at work, because the site requires that you download an applet and our system won't allow that. So when at home or elsewhere, go here and after downloading the application, click on "A Star Is Born." Start viewing the show and if you'd like to view it full screen, right-click on the show and choose "Full Screen." Hit the Escape key to get out of full-screen mode.

Top 10 Signs Your Newspaper Is in Trouble

Thanks to Dave Letterman's "Late Show," CBS, April 30:

10) "Covers all the news that happens within one block of the office."

9) "Today's exclusive: 'Nixon Dead!'"

8) "Reporter sent to jail for refusing to divulge a source...Oh, and he
also killed a dude."

7) "All horoscopes: 'Now would be a good time to get out of the
newspaper business.' "

6) "Paper's motto: 'Suck It'"

5) "Every 'hot gossip' item is about Jack Klugman."

4) "Managing editor and guy who wheels around breakfast? Same guy."

3) "Under 'weather,' it just reads 'yes.'"

2) "Instead of 'Garfield,' has a comic strip called 'Garfunkel.'"

... and the No. 1 sign that your newspaper is in trouble is: ...

1) "You endorsed Dennis Kucinich."