Thursday, August 07, 2003
Why Hate Big Media?

Why hate big media? Because despite having enormous human and financial and computational resources, big media outlets behave stupidly enough frequently enough.

What am I talking about? For one, earlier today, a headline at Slate had the word "masturbation" as "masterbation." Like the punch line of a joke about a guy who's really good at putting worms on fishhooks. Sure, they corrected it quickly after I sent them an e-mail, but what am I, a proofreader for Microsoft's online magazine?

Now, currently on the front of the CNN website, is this teaser paragraph for this story on the California gubernatorial recall:
California's gubernatorial recall race took another twist today when Rep. Darrell Issa, who largely bankrolled the effort, decided not to run. Over the past two days, Sen. Dianne Feinstein decided not to enter the race. Then actor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would. Today, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante said he would run for Gov. Gray Davis' job if the recall passes.
That last sentence makes it sound like there's going to be two elections: One to see if Davis gets recalled, then a subsequent one to elect a new governor.

But there's only one election being held. One question on the ballot will ask whether Davis should be recalled; a second asks voters to choose one candidate who will replace Davis if the recall question passes. The second question is moot if the recall fails. The construct "would run ... if the recall passes" just doesn't cut it. Surely a company like CNN with Time-Warner's resources can afford to pay top-notch graduates of journalism schools who can communicate the reality of a situation accurately, even to readers like me.

I don't mind typos, weird grammar, or misspellings on an individual's blog. I get site hits for having misspelled "Kobe Bryant" as "Kobe Bryan" and "American Splendor" as "American Slendor". But I'm doing this for free, excepting the reader's valuable time. The people who put together Slate and CNN and the New York Times get real money for doing what they do, so it's fair to hold them to a higher standard.

Addendum: My lover/partner/unindicted-co-conspirator tells me, correctly, that the punchline to the fishhook joke would be "masterbaiter." Sigh. Remember, there's a universal law -- I think it's Cohen's law -- that says every attempt to publicly correct (screw the split infinitive) another's grammar and/or spelling results in one making a grammatical or spelling mistake of one's own, with "mispelling" being particularly likely.