Archive for Editing

Great piece by Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review this week about journalism ethics and how science works: A journalist’s guide to the scientific method – and why it’s important

Intuitively we know that the scientific method of research, hypothesis, testing and revision is what we do as journalists. Niles details the connections nicely and ties in how scientists do their job with the SPJ code of ethics.


He fails to point out that journalists also need to understand the scientific method so they can get stories related to science right.

Specifically in the issues of evolution v. creationism and global warming, too many journalists fall short of doing their jobs right.

To start, look at the words used in most stories. Sources and reporters will use the term “believe in” when talking about global warming and evolution.

Belief is non-science. People believe in creationism. They believe in a deity.

Scientific data are accepted or rejected. And the basis for that acceptance or rejection is supposed to come from analysis of the facts and not what a person believes.

While journalists cannot do anything about what  sources say, (i.e. some presidential candidates: “I do not believe in evolution.”), it is wrong for a journalist to use such a term when discussing science or when framing questions.

Likewise, it is time journalists stopped giving equal weight to sources.

In a debate of what science to teach in science classes, scientists and science teachers should be given more weight and credibility than ministers or philosophers. Likewise, if a school board is debating including a course — outside the science curriculum — that compares the various religious creation stories, then ministers and philosophers should have greater  weight than scientists.

I would no more trust a person with only a theological degree discussing science than I would trust a scientist discussing religion.  But the standard style of giving equal time to “He said/She said” quotes rules out giving readers/viewers/listeners of the story the necessary context of who has the greater credibility in a given issue.

Filed Under (Editing, Skills) by on 05-04-2011 and tagged ,

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

The article below was posted on today. Too bad there is no such country as the Dominican Republic of Congo

Ordinarily such a glaring error by the writer would be caught by the editor. But I am willing to bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that there was no editor.

If there was an editor, then the writer and editor both deserve to be fired.

Just to be clear: There is a Democratic Republic of Congo and the Dominican Republic. Two different countries in two widely different parts of the world.

United Nations Plane Crashes in Dominican Republic of Congo

Posted by Josh on April 5, 2011 · Leave a Comment

A United Nations has plane has crashed in the Dominican Republic of Congo killing all of the 33 people on board aside from just one person. It is said that the accident occurred as the plane was coming in to land in the main airport of the country that is located in the capital city of Kinshasa.

It has now been confirmed that out of the 33 people on board the plane, there was only one survivor. Condolences have been offered to the families of those killed in the crash by the Security Council. It is thought that the plane missed the runway as it was coming in to land although the exact reasons for this happening are not yet confirmed. It is thought however that the wind conditions could have played a big part in the crash.

It is said that of the 33 passengers, four of them were the crew and the other 29 were UN personnel. It is said that the crew of the plane was Georgian. The plane in question was a Bombardier CRJ-200 jet which was part of Airzana Georgian Airways.

I have argued with journalists and cajoled students into thinking globally with their local stories.

Here is an example of how a Washington correspondent for a  New Jersey paper linked Pres. Obama’s current trip to Brazil with very local issues in New Jersey.

First posted at my Journalism, Journalists and the World site.

Congratulations to Herb Jackson, Washington correspondent for the [New Jersey] Record.

He not only understands the idea that there is a connection between international and local events, he knows how to dig into the various databases to get the numbers to back up the link.

Obama’s trip to Brazil key to N.J.

He did what I and a few others have been arguing for a long time. He took information already on hand from the wire services, looked up some data and did some local interviews.

Without spending extra money to send someone overseas, the readers of the Record got a news story that was specific to their local area AND showed how the New Jersey economy depended on global trade.

This is called providing context.

It would be nice to see more LOCAL reporting like this.

Too often most Americans don’t know or care about global events. In part, this is because the U.S. media don’t show enough intelligence to provide the context of why understanding what goes on in Brazil or Japan or Germany means to the local reader/listener/viewer.

Again, congrats to Herb Jackson for being a good journalist who sees connections vital to his readership.

Filed Under (Editing) by on 16-03-2011 and tagged

To my former students: You thought I was tough.

Thanks to the GAWKER you can see what a story looks like in the editing process when a Washington Post editor gets hold of it.

Here’s a Washington Post Story With All the Editor’s Notes In It

My edits only looked worse because I used green ink!

Filed Under (Editing, Skills) by on 24-09-2010 and tagged

Yep, today (9/24) is indeed National Punctuation Day. And as all good journalists know, where we place a comma or apostrophe is important.

Yet, sometimes we get it wrong. Good thing many of us work with good editors who catch those mistakes that would make us look bad.

Such as the headlines to the right from Apostrophe Abuse:

So, journalists, go hug your copy editor in honor of today.

While I applaud the efforts of the folks at National Punctuation Day, they are causing some problems.

Punctuation Man breaks with Associated Press,endorses serial comma

Well, to each his own on this issue at least.