The fall of journalism

Gee DGee D Shipmate
The quality of journalism falls and falls. The website of our ABC, the equivalent of the BBC, has a person arrested at "a licensed premise". Anyone have other examples?
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  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited January 20
    Gee D wrote: »
    The website of our ABC, the equivalent of the BBC, has a person arrested at "a licensed premise".

    I think this needs some context. ABC reported that someone was arrested in a liquor-serving establishment? What was the person arrested for? Was it something that would not normally have been considered newsworthy?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited January 20
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise.
    Maybe. Or it could be a typo that no one caught. (Not that that’s good either.)

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    The phrase is "at a licensed premise" so I suspect it's not a typo - a typo would be "at licensed premise".
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.

    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.

    The same paper in that era also once ran a political column in which the writer referred to "the Thatcherite Nanny State", apparently thinking that Thatcher's supposed resemblance to a literal nanny justified the use of the phrase. (And, no, it didn't seem like an ironic dig at Conservatives for acting like the socialists they criticize.)

    But my favorite snafu from The Globe was when a book-reviewer, evaluating a history of the Beats, opened his article with personal anecdotes about having met Allen Ginsberg, and then proceeded to refer to another Beat writer as "William Rice Burroughs."

    In fairness, journalism schools can't possibly teach every student the precisely delineated meaning of every word and phrase in existence, so I can forgive the misused Hamlet quip. I woulda hoped, though, that someone paid to write about politics would know the meaning of "nanny state", and I find it REALLY hard to forgive the butchering of "William S. Burroughs", given the name-dropping that the writer had previously indulged himself in.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    More a fall of copy-editing rather than journalism per se.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited January 20
    NicoleMR wrote: »
    More a fall of copy-editing rather than journalism per se.

    Of course, I look for any and all opportunities to mention the introduction to The Faith Of Donald J. Trump, in which the writer, a high-profile evangelical, warned that Christians who refuse to forgive Trump his checkered past are acting like "the older brother in the parable of the Good Samaritan".

    I can easily believe that the writer knew which parable he was refering to, and just had a synaptical misfire, but I really can't fathom how that woulda made it past the proof-readers. (And, yes, I might be assuming alot about that publisher's editing process there.)
  • Gee D wrote: »
    The phrase is "at a licensed premise" so I suspect it's not a typo - a typo would be "at licensed premise".
    As one who makes typos like “at a licensed premise” with unnerving regularity (autocorrect is a bane as well as a boon and often doesn’t help, and spellcheck won’t catch the problem), a typo doesn’t seem at all unlikely to me.

    But I have to agree with @NicoleMR. This seems to me like more of a copy-editing failure than a sign of the fall of journalism.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited January 20
    A politician hoist on his own petard for drug use is one given the lengthy prison sentence for which he had advocated......

    Thanks for the Thatcher and Burroughs lines.
    Nick Tamen wrote: »

    But I have to agree with @NicoleMR. This seems to me like more of a copy-editing failure than a sign of the fall of journalism.

    Is not copy-editing part of journalism?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited January 20
    Gee D wrote: »
    A politician hoist on his own petard for drug use is one given the lengthy prison sentence for which he had advocated......

    Yeah, that's basically what I was trying to say. The fall for a cokehead politician who had previously promoted draconian anti-drug policies is gonna be a lot harder than for one who hadn't.
  • stetson wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.

    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.
    It’s not just journalists. I couldn’t begin to count how often I’ve heard lawyers and others misuse “Hobson’s choice.” And that’s just one example of many. The reality is that lots of people in lots of professions use these phrases based on how they’ve heard them, without really understanding what they mean.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.

    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.
    It’s not just journalists. I couldn’t begin to count how often I’ve heard lawyers and others misuse “Hobson’s choice.” And that’s just one example of many. The reality is that lots of people in lots of professions use these phrases based on how they’ve heard them, without really understanding what they mean.

    I think I would use Hobson's Choice to mean a situation where there are, in fact, two or more choices, but not much difference between them, eg. there are several restaurants in town, but they all just serve burgers.

    But if I'm understanding wikipedia correctly, it means there is literally only one option, because Hobson only allowed his customers to take the horse closest to the door(*). Though why you would need a phrase for that situation, I don't know, since the lack of choice is obvious, and hence doesn't need to be pointed out.

    (*) As an alternative explanation, the version I heard as a kid was that Hobson sold carriages, and allowed you to choose any colour, as long as it was black.
  • TurquoiseTasticTurquoiseTastic Kerygmania Host
    Honestly though I am much more concerned about whether journalists tell the truth and report stories worth hearing than about their quality of English.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    as for pronouns............!
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    .......as for "one in 'x'number of persons 'are'."
    ,
    ......as for the confusion of 'less" and 'fewer'.

    The real problem, however, is the debased integrity of journalists, editors, and proprietors, which makes a mockery of press freedom.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    All the above are sadly very true. One which really grates is Kwesi's reference to "number". Number is singular and if the subject of a sentence/phrase any following verb should also take the singular form.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Oh for pity's sake. I am a former US-based journalist. I've won a modest number awards (state-&/or-regional-level, not national). I've worked for weeklies, monthlies, and dailies and even have a small number of national credits.

    In my years as a working journalist, a typical workday included the following:

    1. meet today's deadline with one story already assigned (sometimes as of late previous-day's afternoon and sometimes this was two or three stories) in progress
    2. be on the alert / lookout for current, just-now-breaking stories
    3. be on the alert / lookout for future stories for future issues
    4. respond as needed to calls / emails from sources already contacted for work-in-progress
    5. respond as needed to abrupt editorial re-assignment to breaking news events
    6. fact-checking stories currently in progress
    7. attend daily budget meeting with estimates of space needed in next day's issue

    The notion that the typical reporter (in my experience often with only an average 4-year-college degree --IF that -- and an average citizen's grasp on the workings of her/his government ) has the luxury of deeply considering word choices when typing at 90 miles an hour to meet a deadline 4 minutes hence is nonsense.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    @Ohher

    I think I'd basically agree with you if we're talking about reporters who are working on projects for broadcast or publication within a short time period, and often on topics in which they have little expertise.

    I have considerably higher standards, though, for things like editorials, book reviews etc, where the creators are arguably claiming some expertise on the topic, and often, I assume, have deadlines more generous than a few hours.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    In my experience, a fairly small number of journalists are able to divvy up their work this way until fairly late in their careers -- after a good deal of dues-paying, experience, close calls, dropped balls, and earning the trust of solid, reliable editors (another rare breed).
  • stetson wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.

    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.
    It’s not just journalists. I couldn’t begin to count how often I’ve heard lawyers and others misuse “Hobson’s choice.” And that’s just one example of many. The reality is that lots of people in lots of professions use these phrases based on how they’ve heard them, without really understanding what they mean.
    I think I would use Hobson's Choice to mean a situation where there are, in fact, two or more choices, but not much difference between them, eg. there are several restaurants in town, but they all just serve burgers.

    But if I'm understanding wikipedia correctly, it means there is literally only one option, because Hobson only allowed his customers to take the horse closest to the door(*). Though why you would need a phrase for that situation, I don't know, since the lack of choice is obvious, and hence doesn't need to be pointed out.
    The choice is take the one I’m offering (typically out of the number I have, that you might have thought you could choose from) or take nothing. This one or nothing—your choice. Except you can’t really choose nothing because you need whatever it is.

  • Yes, Hobson’s choice is this or nothing and is an old British phrase well known to me as I live a few minutes walk from Hobson’s Brook, the conduit he funded to provide clean water to Cambridge; I walk past it every day. His livery company would have been busy providing horses that would ride through my village throughout the day as it was on the main route between Cambridge and London.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    The point of my post is that our national broadcaster has employed someone who considers that the word "premises" in the context of buildings denotes the plural, several premises but only one premise. The journalist has not understood that a single building may be described as premises. D Towers, a single building, are premises in a quiet suburban street an so forth.

    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.
    It’s not just journalists. I couldn’t begin to count how often I’ve heard lawyers and others misuse “Hobson’s choice.” And that’s just one example of many. The reality is that lots of people in lots of professions use these phrases based on how they’ve heard them, without really understanding what they mean.
    I think I would use Hobson's Choice to mean a situation where there are, in fact, two or more choices, but not much difference between them, eg. there are several restaurants in town, but they all just serve burgers.

    But if I'm understanding wikipedia correctly, it means there is literally only one option, because Hobson only allowed his customers to take the horse closest to the door(*). Though why you would need a phrase for that situation, I don't know, since the lack of choice is obvious, and hence doesn't need to be pointed out.
    The choice is take the one I’m offering (typically out of the number I have, that you might have thought you could choose from) or take nothing. This one or nothing—your choice. Except you can’t really choose nothing because you need whatever it is.

    Thanks.

    But(and not that I'm doubting you), I'm having a hard time thinking of real-life situations where we would use the phrase. You'd need a situation where, as you say, someone has a wide variety of items he could offer you, but for some reason, is restricting your options to just one in particular.

    In the case of Hobson's livery, I assume it's because allowing everyone to choose his own horse woulda been too much of an inconvenience for Hobson. Other than a limited number of situations which mimic that original example, I really can't think of any. I wonder if anyone has other examples.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    edited January 21
    Going back to the OP, I agree that illiteracy is pretty depressing in the output of people who are supposed to earn their living, if not with their pens, at least with their keyboards and spellcheckers. However, more seriously, and what I thought this thread was going to be about, is the temptation of the easy story, and the depressing lack of honesty, objectivity and willingness to report news rather than the proprietor's prejudices among so many journalists both in print and on the screen.

    A question, though, as to how much this is a new phenomenon, rather than one that has been all too prevalent, at least throughout my lifetime, and for at least fifty years before that started?

    In comparison with that, criticism of malapropisms, grammar and proof reading is not much better than evaluating books by their fonts rather than their content.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I suspect, but don’t know, that what has gone down is the quality (or in some cases even the existence) of subediting.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    I suspect, but don’t know, that what has gone down is the quality (or in some cases even the existence) of subediting.

    Yes. A month or so ago, I came across a real shocker on the website of our national broadcaster. It was bad enough to shake me from my usual lethargy in these matters and write. The standard rhubarb reply, but with even the briefest of glances by a sub-editor would have caught the error
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited January 21
    In the lifestyle section of our daily rag today is the following headline:

    Pet Obesity Remins An Unseen Epidemic

    I can only guess it had to do with space.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    Enoch wrote: »
    Going back to the OP, I agree that illiteracy is pretty depressing in the output of people who are supposed to earn their living, if not with their pens, at least with their keyboards and spellcheckers. However, more seriously, and what I thought this thread was going to be about, is the temptation of the easy story, and the depressing lack of honesty, objectivity and willingness to report news rather than the proprietor's prejudices among so many journalists both in print and on the screen.

    A question, though, as to how much this is a new phenomenon, rather than one that has been all too prevalent, at least throughout my lifetime, and for at least fifty years before that started?
    There certainly seems a tendency in reporting to simply string together a series of statements from other sources without any critical assessment of that. Which means that it's quite easy for groups to get things into the papers (especially local papers) - that's not much of a problem for community groups wanting to publicise a coffee morning writing a press release that get reproduced verbatim by the journalist as a "local group helps out with fundraising coffee morning" story. It's more worrying when those are statements from political parties and campaigning groups, where down right lies can be given a veneer of respectability by being reported by the press without it being clear that these are the unverified opinions of people with a particular agenda.
  • The BBC TV news a day or two back had someone speaking about the "levelling-up" grants from a place purportedly called "Morcambe".
  • The BBC TV news a day or two back had someone speaking about the "levelling-up" grants from a place purportedly called "Morcambe", according to the screen caption.

  • Gee D wrote: »
    BroJames wrote: »
    I suspect, but don’t know, that what has gone down is the quality (or in some cases even the existence) of subediting.

    Yes. A month or so ago, I came across a real shocker on the website of our national broadcaster. It was bad enough to shake me from my usual lethargy in these matters and write. The standard rhubarb reply, but with even the briefest of glances by a sub-editor would have caught the error

    You are assuming there is a sub-editor, or that they have enough time to do their job. Print media has undergone multiple rounds of ruthless cost cutting because of falling circulations, and few publications have managed to make up the money with their online offerings. Precisely because every website has equal access to the end user, the digital market has largely been captured by a few global brands.

  • Of course plenty of papers have a long history of errors, though I think The Grauniad's woes were traditionally blamed on the typesetters rather than the journalists.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited January 22
    BroJames wrote: »
    I suspect, but don’t know, that what has gone down is the quality (or in some cases even the existence) of subediting.
    You are assuming there is a sub-editor, or that they have enough time to do their job. Print media has undergone multiple rounds of ruthless cost cutting because of falling circulations, and few publications have managed to make up the money with their online offerings. Precisely because every website has equal access to the end user, the digital market has largely been captured by a few global brands


    Yes, I would have made those assumptions but don't know one way or the other about their applicability here.

    Fixed quoting code. BroJames, Purgatory Host
  • On wordy writers of the past--

    you might consider the effect on writers who make their living by writing serials, esp. if paid by the word; and the kind of taste that develops in their audience, with kinock-on effects for non-serial writers who nevertheless want to appeal to that audience...
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    In comparison with that, criticism of malapropisms, grammar and proof reading is not much better than evaluating books by their fonts rather than their content.

    Not sure if that's a great comparison. Choosing one font over another is a question of taste. Writing "the government hasn't got nothing to offer" when you mean "the government has got nothing to offer" is an incorrect linkage of words and meaning(*).

    And speaking of double-negativish thingambobs, I once read a book-review where the writer stated that, considering the price of the book, it was pretty annoying to see the word "irregardless" used in the text. I don't think I'd ever seen a reviewer use that particular standard(ie. the more you're paying, the less tolerance you're gonna have for errors) to make a judgement about the worth of a book, but it sorta makes sense.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Also from the Globe And Mail book-review...

    A writer, reviewing a book of travelogues by Mordecai Richeler, refered to "South Africa's oxymoronic Sun City". Since there is nothing oxymoronic about the name "Sun City", he evidently thought that the phrase means something like "ultra-moronic".

    That really is one that should NOT flow from the pen of a professional writer, much less get past a proof-reader.
  • SpikeSpike Admin Emeritus
    We have a local rag where the spelling and punctuation is abysmal. They frequently spell “lose” as “loose” (one of my particular bugbears) and “quiet” as “quite”. I recently saw a report about train cancellations that stated “tickets are being excepted on local busses”. Reports are often littered with misplaced apostrophes, such as the story of the business that opened “three year’s ago”.

    I’m sure it’s written by teenagers on work experience.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    I'd prefer a newspaper with atrocious spelling and grammar that checks that their stories are factually accurate and informative to one with perfect spelling and grammar that spreads hatred and lies.
  • Yeah, but in the UK, we have a tabloid press that spreads racism, misogyny, transphobia, and so on. Usually, their spelling is very good.
  • SpikeSpike Admin Emeritus
    I'd prefer a newspaper with atrocious spelling and grammar that checks that their stories are factually accurate and informative to one with perfect spelling and grammar that spreads hatred and lies.

    But surely, if someone is writing for a living, basic spelling ability should be a requirement.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    stetson wrote: »
    ...the version I heard as a kid was that Hobson sold carriages, and allowed you to choose any colour, as long as it was black.

    It was Henry Ford who refused to sell Model T's in any color except black.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Moo wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    ...the version I heard as a kid was that Hobson sold carriages, and allowed you to choose any colour, as long as it was black.

    It was Henry Ford who refused to sell Model T's in any color except black.

    The quote from Henry Ford was
    Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Moo wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    ...the version I heard as a kid was that Hobson sold carriages, and allowed you to choose any colour, as long as it was black.

    It was Henry Ford who refused to sell Model T's in any color except black.

    Ahh, thanks. Yes, I've heard that as well. Not sure if the two stories merged in the public folklore, or if my mind mixed them up.
  • stetson wrote: »
    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.

    And should be "with" his own petard. Or I suppose "by". But "on" doesn't really make much sense, as once you've been hoisted, you are no longer on the petard.

    Eldest child and I were recently talking about the student journalism at our local high school, which they currently attend part time. The school has a number of pupils who are capable of high quality writing, but none of them are involved in student journalism. Describing the average standard of the writing in the student newspaper as "bad" would be generous.
  • The reason Henry Ford only sold Model T's in black is that he found through trial and error that it dried fastest, and he was churning those things out as fast as he could go.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    Thanks. But I'm not sure this is only a recent decline. Over twenty years ago, more than one columnist in The Globe And Mail, Canada's paper-of-record, got called out for using the phrase "hoist on his own petard" to mean simply "exposed as a wrongdoer", without apparently realizing that the phrase is meant to contain the idea that the wrongdoer is being condemned by his own standards, eg. a stridently anti-drug politician has to resign after getting caught with cocaine.

    And should be "with" his own petard. Or I suppose "by". But "on" doesn't really make much sense, as once you've been hoisted, you are no longer on the petard.

    Thanks. That error may very well have been my own, not the writers'.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited January 23
    According to a subsequent exchange in the Globe's letter-section, Shakespeare likely intended the line in part as a humourous word-play around flatulence.

    [God, I can't believe how much I remember about Globe And Mail articles from 25 years ago.]
  • stetson wrote: »
    According to a subsequent exchange in the Globe's letter-section, Shakespeare likely intended the line in part as a humourous word-play around flatulence.

    Modern people often forget that Shakespeare wrote plays to entertain people. There are gags about sex and bodily functions everywhere.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    According to a subsequent exchange in the Globe's letter-section, Shakespeare likely intended the line in part as a humourous word-play around flatulence.

    Modern people often forget that Shakespeare wrote plays to entertain people. There are gags about sex and bodily functions everywhere.

    English Literature classes at school do their utmost to ensure people will entirely miss such things, and loathe Shakespeare with a passion to the end of their days.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    KarlLB wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    According to a subsequent exchange in the Globe's letter-section, Shakespeare likely intended the line in part as a humourous word-play around flatulence.

    Modern people often forget that Shakespeare wrote plays to entertain people. There are gags about sex and bodily functions everywhere.

    English Literature classes at school do their utmost to ensure people will entirely miss such things, and loathe Shakespeare with a passion to the end of their days.
    Henry VI part 1 was my ‘O’ level text. In my all boys school I don’t think we missed a single innuendo or double entendre, and probably found some that weren’t there. It still didn’t help me to love Shakespeare. I only came to that later in life.
  • SpikeSpike Admin Emeritus
    edited January 23
    The “any colour as long as it’s black” is a nice quotation but probably not true
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