Thursday, September 03, 2009

They want us to pay for this junk?!

There's been quite a discussion in media circles about whether online newspapers should charge the end user for content, in contrast to nearly every other segment of the news media. But are savvy consumers really going to pay for some content that they can get for free in a million different other places or the unique content that's guided by collapsing standards and vanishing quality?

Yet another example: a few weeks ago, The Post-Star published a letter to the editor by a self-proclaimed leader of the local Tea Baggers. He bragged that he was "very knowledgeable of the political process" and that he "had the pleasure of teaching it at the NCO Leadership Academy, Barksdale Air Force Base, La."

This American history expert went on to declare: "The government, as set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a 'government of the people, by the people and for the people.'"

Apparently no one at the daily was educated (or observant) enough to notice that the phrase 'government of the people, by the people and for the people' comes not from the Constitution but from the Gettysburg Address. An editor's note was clearly warranted to correct this mis-implication.

Such carelessness has become par for the course for The Post-Star, which is now rife with common spelling errors. Bear in mind, I don't go scouring the paper for these mistakes. They just jump out at me. And I don't even read anywhere close to every article.

Why it matters is very simple.

If the paper shows that degree of carelessness with the easy things, one wonders how rigorous it's being with the hard, important things. If they screw up the stuff we know, how can we trust them to tell us the stuff we don't know?

Early this year, the paper published the engagement announcement of my sister. Despite being correct as submitted (my mom is an English teacher and a stickler for proper grammar, spelling and punctuation), the paper managed to misspell the word 'art' as 'are' in the paid announcement.

My mom was annoyed by this since she'd paid good money for it. She went into the paper's office and insisted they reprint it correctly. The employee made the correction in the computer and showed the version to my mom, which she okayed. Somehow, they managed to bungle the reprint, making the exact same mistake.

She went back to the paper's office, even more annoyed at the amateurishness, and made them retype the announcement from scratch. They finally got it right, requiring three attempts to properly spell the word 'art.'

So newspapers are betting their future that people will want to spend more money on this sort of incompetence??

Of course, the local weekly Chronicle is far from perfect itself. It ran the engagement announcement a month AFTER the wedding occurred which doesn't seem like good form. But at least the Chronicle doesn't expect to pay for their mistakes. And lame headlines aside, the weekly manages to be a little better written despite being free.

1 comment:

PCS said...

At least he didn't call it the U.S.S. Constitution.