February 2007


barriers.jpgToday’s front page has an eerie photograph of huge concrete towers atop sand dunes.

But read the caption: “A new vehicle barrier just north of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.” Now if these are vehicle barriers, can’t a car just drive through what appear to be 20-foot wide gaps between the towers?

Of course not. Once again, we are misled by non-informative captions, and an article missing basic who-what-why facts. It’s a beautiful shot by award-winning photojournalist Ann Johansson, but it’s the paper’s fault for not documenting the documentation! If the gap is less than 5′-7″, the approximate width of a 2007 Mini Cooper — one of the smallest cars a poor Mexican emigrant would consider using to escape poverty and a lack of work — and certainly less than the 7′-2″ it would take to ram a Hummer H3 through, the space between the posts must be about 4′-6″. Which would indicate that their vertical height must be about 5′ or 6′. So a person standing in the picture would be about the height of the barrier.

San Luis Rio ColoradoAnd why do these striking objects march in alternating heights? Are there crews of American or Mexican workers who erect these things? Are they precast elements that are driven around on the backs of trucks? Do I really want all these facts? NO! It’s not the point of the article. I only want hard information if you put a giant 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ photograph right smack in the middle of page 1. Otherwise, don’t do it. Instead, use an image showing constructon workers building these things. Show some border patrol officials observing the work. A picture that tells the story, not art photography that I hope to see some day at an art gallery of Ann’s work! Sorry, Ann. It’s not you, it’s your disappointing employer.

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Sad DogAlso on page 1:  A horrible headline reading “Abuses Dog Paths of Young Magazine ‘Crews.'”

Of course, everyone seeing the paper this morning assumed someone was found abusing dogs.  As in “Man Abuses Dog.”  My first thought:  Why would they put that on the front page?  So, some idiot in Brooklyn smacked his mutt around the backyard and the neighbors called the cops.  Oy.  I’m getting weary of this.  It makes it hard to eat breakfast. 

It took me a few minutes.  Read “abuses” with the “s” sound, not the “z” sound.  Could they possibly be using “dog” as a verb?  What is this, 1954?  Who says “dogs” anymore?  “Hounded,” maybe.  But “dog?”  I don’t think so.  Next, we have to figure out the meaning of “Young Magazine ‘Crews.'”  What in the world is a magazine crew and why would they be hounded by abuses?  To make it worse, the little subhead reads “Door to Door:  Long Days, Slim Rewards.”  Oh, so it must be a piece about the tough job of working on a “magazine crew,” whatever that is.  But wait, no, it’s about them being abused, which I think would be the main issue, not that it’s a tough way to make a living.  Obviously, being beaten silly would far outweight having a long day with low pay.  Many of us work a long day with low  pay.  But I haven’t been whipped with a USB cable lately.

So the article is confused.  It’s not really clear what the point is.  And while it’s a troubling issue, there must be absolutely no news coming out of Iran or Afghanistan or Korea or Cuba today for this thing to appear on Page 1.  Why magazines?  Why not have them sell life insurance policies?  Isn’t that a little more lucrative than selling a $14 subscription to Road & Track?  If you’re going to be torturing people, why not go for the high-commission stuff, like cars or Ming vases?

And here’s one more loser article:  Front page of the Business section.  A conference at Yale about global warming.  The reporter tells us that when intellectuals get together, “you can be pretty sure things are about to get nasty.”  Whoa, I can’t wait to read this article.  It’s sounds crazy!

When the brainiacs meet, we learn that “the two sides went at it in the dignified, vicious way that academics do.”  Here we go, let’s hear it!!  We still haven’t gotten any meat yet, just appetizers, and now we have to turn the page to the inside for the pay dirt… here we go… “then came the juicy stuff:  the Stern Review ‘commits cruel and unusual punishment on the English language.'” 

That’s it?  No, hang on, there’s more.  Soon we find that “this was fairly tame compared with the comments of another Yale economist” who actually compared his opponent to “The Wizard of Oz,” adding “my job is to be Toto.”  OUCH!  These guys are vicious!  I bet the recipient of that barb is still smarting!  Whoo-wee.  Wait.  That makes no sense.  Was Toto somehow The Wizard’s arch-rival?  I don’t remember that.  Oh, I guess he pulled the curtain thing aside, sort of.  Oh, so smart guy #2 showed that #1 had no clothes.  Or his theories didn’t.  Oh.  Funny.  I get it now.  Sorry, false alarm.

Chuck HagelOkay, I’ve finally lost my cool about all the ridiculous errors in the NY Times. When I was in elementary school, we used the Times as a resource. It was the go-to place to study correct usage, grammar, spelling, style. Now it is filled with crap. Complicated sentence structures, run-on sentences, misspellings, awkward phrasing. I don’t get it. A) Don’t they have copy editors? and B) Don’t they have proofreaders? I’m happy to point out the daily errors, and they can pay me if they want me to sit and read the paper every night before it goes to press so I can find the usual 5-6 errors on the front page alone!

Today, for example, we have a caption under the lead photo saying, “Iraq policy critics have included, from left, Senators Chuck Hagel, Richard G. Lugar and Joseph R. Biden Jr.” Why does it say “have included?” That implies that they were one-time critics, but don’t necessarily continue as such. High-school journalism 101: the article that bumps the picture does not include a word about these 3 Senators. Eventually Hagel and Biden are briefly mentioned, but no word on Lugar. Is it possible he has changed his stance? Let’s find out… nope, he remains skeptical of the Bush plan. According to the January 25 edition of the Times, “the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday denouncing the plan to send more troops to Baghdad… But even Republicans who opposed the resolution, including Senator RICHARD G. LUGAR of Indiana, expressed deep doubt about whether the troop increase could succeed and suggested it was time for a new direction.”

So what’s my point? Instead of “Iraq policy critics have included, from left, Senators… bla bla bla, why not simply “Iraq policy critics include?” Clearly, these men all remain critical of Bush’s policy, even though Lugar has to hedge a bit since he is a Bush loyalist! Don’t get me started!

Same thing in the article below that about Judith Miller, the recently jailed NY Times reporter. The lead says, “Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times, testified Tuesday as a witness for the prosecutor who had put her in jail for 85 days…” What is wrong with “the prosecutor who put her in jail?” What’s with the Latinate construction? Has anyone read E.B. White? Why are these reporters such klutzy writers?

And here’s a good one further down the page, a blurb teasing an article inside: “Dean Baquet, the editor of The Los Angeles Times who was fired in November for refusing to cut jobs, is returning to The New York Times as chief of its Washington bureau and an assistant managing editor.” Let’s be honest. If the man was once fired from the LA Times, he should be returning to the LA Times. Doesn’t that make common sense? That’s it! There’s nothing to debate about. That’s just poor writing. How about helping the reader by saying, is returning to his previous employer, The New York Times. There! Problem solved! Or just, “has been hired at the NY Times, a former employer.” See, there’s the irony captured beautifully. He worked at paper A, then went to paper B, and is now returning to paper A. Great story. That is not, however, what the blurb says.

C’mon, New York Times, let’s try to get it right. How about a basic training program for your reporters?