More fun with editors

More fun with editors
: James Taranto pointed to this bit of creative editing (it should be called creative writing) from Reuters. The reporter Deanna Wrenn’s original lead:

In this small county seat with just 995 residents, the girl everyone calls Jessi is a true heroine

  • I always wondered how the “Abe Vigoda is dead” story got started. Years ago, as I recall, David Letterman did a skit in which he used some kind of device which registered “the ghost of Abe Vigoda.’ Then Vigoda himself did a walk-on, saying, “I’m not dead, you yutz!”

  • Isn’t it odd that there have been three (Jayson Blair, the BBC’s bogus claims of fakery, and now this) journalistic scandals all involving different aspects of reporting on this same story?
    I imagine the people of West Viringia weren’t exactly enthralled with the media to beign with but now …

  • button

    Eric, no it’s not odd, it’s probably mostly a power issue– a small slip of a gal coming from an obscure little town. There are power issues in journalism sometimes. They want to produce a good story. But look at the slippery slope here and how they glided from “just” massaging the facts (for a better story) to embroidering whole cloth. I was aghast and astonished to read about this.
    Jeff: what recourse does the original writer/reporter have to get redress on this? If they totally get away with this, I am really disgusted!

  • Brant

    I took a peek at JDLasica’s blog, and came to the conclusion that she’s a ninny. Money quote: “The fact is, the Middle East has been ready for a Palestinian state for about five decades; it has just never had the full backing of a U.S. administration.”
    Uh-huh. I’d agree only to the extent that the Middle East has been ready for a Palestinian state so long as it completely supplants the Israeli state and all those hideous, murdering Jews are thrown into the sea, right? You see, as usual, it’s all the Jews’ fault.

  • Yeah Right

    It’s too bad Ralph Nader doesn’t pursue media companies the way he pursued General Motors. (He’s more worried about “corporate media concentration”. Ralph… come into the new millenium, its called a blog, that’s B-L-O-G, thats short for webblog. It is impossible to corpocracise these things.) He would have say “Reuters, untrue any speed.”

  • Bigfire

    Ah, Abe’s story. Unfortunately, much funnier than what has happen countless number of time in India, whereby some people will try to steal land by bribing some clerk into declaring another person dead. Once declared dead, it’s almost impossible to ‘revive’ a person. So much so, there was a union of sort “Association of Dead People”.

  • Are we back to this non-story again?
    And darn this version of Movable Type, it won’t let me code _blank into the href! Oh well, what’s a poor Rook to do but stand in the corner and take it.
    Oh, and is this still a non-story? All kidding aside, I really don’t know what to make of the whole Jessica Lynch story. I do hope that at some point she will be able to talk truthfully about what happened. At this point, I just don’t see that happening.

  • Brant: (1) I’m a he, not a she. (2) I truly feel sorry for you if you believe that millions of people who have lived in that part of the world for thousands of years don’t deserve a say in their self-determination.
    As for the thrust of this thread, I had a very amicable and cordial editing experience with the Nieman Reports today. Was she scared straight by Jeff, or did Jeff just have a bad experience? We’ll never know.

  • Brant

    I guess that the Sudetan Germans should have had a say in their self-determination, as well. Actually, they did; they were citizens in the most progressive democratic state in Europe. But they chose ethnic identity over progress, and they proceeded to invite Hitler into the country. The rest is, as they say, history.
    After having provoked the horrors of WW2, the Germans were deprived of the Sudetanland, and East Prussia (which was ceded to Poland). That was the price of their unleashing such a horrible war on the region. They lost. Too bad.
    A sensible person would get the analogy. And please don’t feel sorry for me. I want nothing more for the Arab people than for them to enjoy freedom and democracy. But first they have to show that they are capable of building a civil society. The Palestinians embrace terror, and thinking that giving them a state will suddenly turn theirs into a civil society is about as naive as thinking that dumping a brick into a goldfish bowl will turn the brick into a goldfish.
    Arafat and his minions see a Palestinian state as only an interim step toward destroying Israel. Every step that we take to appease them only encourages them to believe that terrorism works. If we “give” them a state without first being assured that they have renounced terror and embraced the institutions of democracy, then we will have merely created another terror state on Israel’s border, with all the trappings of state sovereignty to complicate Israel’s difficult task of defending herself from attack.
    Pipe dreams make for bad history.

  • “She says she’s rewriting herself now in anticipation of the edit. ”
    Not to worry, Jeff, I didn’t actually say that — I’m not worried about the edit or the editor.
    But I now have a better sense of the readers, thanks to you.
    The assignment is to describe elephants to people who’ve never seen one, may not know what “gray” means, and can’t imagine a trunk that tosses peanuts. We take a lot for granted.
    That’s what I meant when I blogged, “I’m adjusting the pitch of my Nieman piece for the reader who’s never heard of a weblog, and will document every statement.”
    Gotta go see if there’s hair on those trunks…

  • Full disclosure:
    Sheila Lennon was nice enough to whisper this to me in email: I had mispelled her name in the post (now corrected).
    I never said we didn’t need editors….

  • I think it was Life magazine where the “golden rule” was: “Never underestimate your readers’ intelligence; never overestimate the amount of information they have to go on.”