Friday, July 15, 2005

The Daily Maul

Welcome to News Writing 101, where we try to identify good journalism by spotlighting bad, and we pick on live local cases. Today we concentrate on a single news story. So: what’s wrong with this opening paragraph?

Thanks to generous donations from the Greene County Bank and the family of James L. Scanlan, the Catskill Public Library and the Palenville Branch Library have purchased new children’s books for the 2005 Summer Reading Program. These books are in addition to the new books that come in on a regular monthly basis.
Ready? Cart before horse, or putting attention to cause(s) of an event ahead of identifying that event. The real news here seems to be a statement that the summer reading program at the Catskill and Palenville public libraries will be endowed with an abundance of new children’s books. (Full reading of the story suggests another version of the real news: launching of summer reading program). Editorializing. Whether the cited donations are “generous” is a value judgment not suitable for straight news. Lose the adjective. Reporting dollar amounts of donations, somewhere in the body of the story, would not be amiss. Misnomer. That donating financial institution is the Bank of Greene County (NY), not the Greene County Bank (which is located in Tennessee). Duality. Two-sentence beginnings (known among professionals as ledes) violate journalistic convention. No justification for departure is apparent here.

Now what about this article’s second paragraph?

“When we knew we had the money to spend, we delegated it immediately to children’s books. We believe you can never have enough picture books, or really, really fun and entertaining books for kids to read over the summer,” said the Library Director. “We want to keep the kids imaginations running with fresh, new and interesting materials. Summer is all about enrichment and imagination.”

Who-lessness. The quoted words are ascribed to a“Library Director” whose name is not supplied. Punkchewashun. In “…the kids imaginations” there should be an apostrophe after kids, denoting function as possessive adjective. Misnomer? Either the Director used to inapt term “delegated” (a transfer of authority) rather than, say, allocated, or the reporter mis-quoted him or her.

Paragraph 3:

The selection includes books by Judy Blume, including “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” more in the series “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” by Lemony Snicket, more in the popular “Magic Tree House” series, junior historical fiction titles, books by the popular children’s author Kevin Henkes, Audrey Wood, Rosemary Wells, Ezra Pound Keats, Paul Galdone, including his classic “Henny Penny,” as well as many, many others.

Garbled series. We are led to believe that we are about to be told what the selection “includes” but eventually are told that the list is not inclusive. In between we get two includings. Meanwhile, the popular children’s author Keven Henkes” seems to be six people. Alternatively, “author” should be authors. Garbled names. Surely there is no children’s author, popular or otherwise, named Ezra Pound Keats. Paragraph 4:

The new books are part of the plan to provide a great summer reading experience, including summer library events and activities, at both libraries this summer. A list of library events for children throughout the summer are available at the libraries or through the libraries’ web calendar, which can be accessed at Click on “Events” to view the calendar.

Redundancy. Projected “summer reading experience” will include “summer events”—would you believe!--“this summer.” LAG, or lack of agreement, in second sentence, between subject (“list”; singular) and verb (“are available”; plural). Final paragraph:

Both the Catskill Public Library and the Palenville Branch Library are participating in the 2005 New York State Summer Reading Program, “Tune in @ Your Library.” Sign-up for the program starts Friday, June 17. Studies show that children who read and who are read to during the summer have a much easier time adjusting to school in the fall.

Somewhere in those sentences is what could have provided this story’s lede. And since it was published June 17th, the report should have said that sign-ups commence today. Still, the blunder is minor compared with publicizing what will happen at a date prior to publication. (For example, the Daily Mail of July 15th contains a story saying “On July 14, the Upper Hudson River Alliance ‘Social Paddle’ moves north….”

OTHERWISE. Alert reader Ray Johrlich calls our attention to news item from, saying “The jury delivered [sic.] for about six hours before returning the [Guilty] verdict” against a soccer coach, 50 years old, who had carnal dealings with a 15-year old female player. As student of journalism, Johrlich also notes that the story lacked completeness; it did not identify the player’s position

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